Field Camps in Many Shapes and Sizes


When performing fieldwork in palaeontology, what you can do and where you can go is often closely tied to the size of your field crew. The decision to make a field crew small or large can have a number of positive and negative effects on your field research

A small crew (~2-6 people) allows you to be more nimble, to react more quickly to changing conditions and avoid delays. However, a small crew limits what kind of work can be done, and as a result most excavations must be relatively small and multiple simultaneous excavations are rarely possible. This sort of field work is typically more targeted, such as during my Masters research, where we focused on collecting particular small specimens (fossil stem-pinnipeds) in the Canadian Arctic Islands or were mapping multiple sites in the Canadian Arctic, fording rivers, crossing tundra, and using helicopters and small planes to cross greater distances.

Larger crews (~15-30+ people) are effectively the opposite of small crews: you are much slower to react to changes (which can often cause significant delays), but you have a much greater ability to tackle larger excavations or run multiple simultaneous quarries. This sort of strategy is typical of most major dinosaur research groups, like Tyler Lyson’s Marmarth group or the Southern Alberta Dinosaur Project.

Both strategies have their advantages and disadvantages, and need to be tailored to the goals of the research in mind.

Example of a large crew

Example of a small crew