Field Work Updates

2016 Field Work Begins

The Fundy Geological Museum is the centre for field research related to the Triassic and Jurassic fossil sites located in Nova Scotia’s Bay of Fundy region.

The Jurassic sandstone cliffs of the Parrsboro shore represent a time of great global change. Fault lines that cut through these rocks and dinosaur bones represent massive earthquakes that broke apart the supercontinent Pangea 200 million years ago. The rupture caused the geological structure of the Bay of Fundy. A large and ancient rift basin that was shifting and sinking for 40 million years, these rocks preserve a rich fossil record from the dawn of the dinosaurs.

New Field Work

The power of the world’s highest tides of the Bay of Fundy causes the sandstone cliffs to erode very quickly. The rapid erosion exposes new fossil specimens every year and makes this one of the richest sites in North America for new fossil discoveries.

  • In 2016 the Museum staff and volunteers are examining new fossils eroding from the research site at Wasson Bluff. A sandstone layer that contains scattered bones of small lizards and dinosaurs is of interest for potential to provide additional evidence of early dinosaur evolution.
  • The Museum staff are examining the site to document the types of animals represented by the 200 million year old bones and teeth found at the site.

Bay of Fundy Dinosaur Site Citizen Science

Initial Survey Work

From June 24 to 28, Museum staff and volunteers will be examining the sandstone layer exposed from the erosion that occurred last winter. The field work begins with documenting the small bones exposed on the surface of the layers.

See More – Visit the Museum

Take time to visit Parrsboro and explore an ancient landscape. 



Citizen Science Updates

Five Islands Arch – Before and After

For many years, the Five Islands Arch has been an iconic scene on the Parrsboro Shore of the Bay of Fundy. Sometime in the evening on October 19th, the Arch on Long Island collapsed (Chronicle Herald)

Residents from Five Islands and other visitors will share information about the Long Island Arch, at a Community Meeting scheduled for November 1 (1 – 4 pm) at the Fundy Geological Museum.  For more information on that event see the Facebook Event posting.


The Arch and Canada’s Oldest Dinosaurs

The rock that makes up Five Islands is basalt, a hard igneous type of rock that forms when molten magma cools. The basalt at Five Islands was formed 200 million years ago, when Canada’s oldest dinosaurs were roaming this area. The dinosaur footprints are also found at Five Islands in the sandstone deposited above the basalt.

The basalt rock at Five Islands formed when magma flooded to the earth’s surface when the supercontinent Pangaea broke apart. The magma (called the Central Atlantic Magmatic Province) covered a huge area 5000 km x 2500 km. The extrusion of this large amount of magma 200 million years ago caused a global mass extinction at the end of the Triassic Period.

There were also massive earthquakes in the Bay of Fundy at this time as the supercontinent continued to separate. The cooled magma (basalt) all along the Parrsboro Shore of the Bay of Fundy was cut by earthquake faults, forming weak zones in the basalt rock. The earthquakes 200 million years ago caused a weak-zone in the rocks at Long Island, and also cut through the bones of the dinosaur bones found in the area.

Before and After with Runners – North Side of Long Island

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The above two images are taken from a slightly different vantage point (low tide and high tide). Although the left and right edges of the image are not lined up, it is possible to line up the rock surface near the arch. The view of the arch with the runners was found on Google Earth, the photo of the arch after the collapse was taken October 22 (Fundy Geological Museum).

Before and After Collapse – South Side of Long Island

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The above slider images show the collapse from the south side of the island. Most of the rock has fallen on south side of the island. The photo taken after the collapse shows a large fault slikenside surface on the left edge of the collapse.

NOTE: The island is private property and remains dangerous due to ongoing erosion of the cliff until it stabilizes.

LIKE the Fundy Geological Museum Facebook Page to learn more.


Research Methods Updates Wasson Bluff

Coastal Erosion and Drawing

The Wasson Bluff site is designated under the Special Places Protection Act (1989) as a protected place that prohibits any collection of fossils or minerals without obtaining a Heritage Research Permit. The following work was carried out under an approved Heritage Research Permit (2015).

Status of the Cliff Exposures

The erosion of the coastal cliffs at Wasson Bluff provide an opportunity for discovery of new fossils, including new bones from Canada’s oldest dinosaurs.  The site is monitored regularly by researchers at the Fundy Geological Museum. The monitoring and collecting of fossil material is justified due to the extreme richness of the site and importance for representing the time immediately after the global mass extinction that occurred at the end of the Triassic Period.

  • Careful collecting of small vertebrate fossils provides an opportunity to establish a rich stratigraphic record of the animal diversity following the mass extinction event at the end of the Triassic Period.
  • The ongoing erosion of the sandstone cliffs exposes a rich fossil record, including bones of dinosaurs, lizards (Clevosaurus), mammal-like reptiles (tritylodont and trithelodont), as well as semionotid (fresh water) fish and hybodont shark teeth and fin spines.

Drawing and Mapping Fieldwork

To document the location (stratigraphic layer) of the fossils, researchers create drawings, maps and take photographs of the cliff. The location is then determined by measuring the height in meters from a base layer, such as the contact with the underlying basalt.

Recent field work has begun to establish a new map of fossil bearing layers. Future work will also establish a high-resolution digital archive of the surface exposures and ongoing erosional processes. The information will be of value for studies of fossil material as well as identification of features related to coastal erosion during a period of climate change and rising sea level.

Scientists that do fieldwork often draw research sketches when conducting research. Researchers also use sophisticated photography and 3D scanning technology to document and study the coastal cliffs, but drawing is an activity that helps researchers observe important details. Below is an example of a recent field sketch done to document the piles of erosional debris at the dinosaur research site.

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Move slider across the image to see a field sketch and comparable photograph of the dinosaur bone bed strata and erosion debris visible July 2015.

Caution Around Cliffs

The coastal cliffs in Nova Scotia are actively eroding and caution should be used when walking near cliffs. Large scale collapse of cliffs can occur, but injury can occur from even a small rock falling from the cliff. Learn how to practice coastal cliff safety. Stay away from debris piles at the base of a cliff, as these signal increased danger due to active erosion.