Earlier this month – July 4-8, 2011 – was my third time to see the wondrous Cretaceous fossils of Queensland, Australia. But it was my first with university students in tow to share in that paleontologically inspired excitement. Our trip together to outback Queensland was during the third week of a five-week program for Emory University students taking a study-abroad program in Australia, taught by me and my good friend (and oh yeah, colleague) Steve Henderson from Oxford College of Emory. We did this trip to give them a taste of what life was like in the modern-day outback and 100 million years ago during the Cretaceous Period, when theropod dinosaurs like Australovenator wintonensis (“Banjo”) likely chowed down on hapless ornithopod dinosaurs, and the whopping pliosaur Kronosaurus queenlandicus was ruling the inland seaway that covered much of the area we saw during our trip.
Paleontological innocents abroad, about to get acquainted with the past lives of outback Queensland. And who could resist posing with a life-sized recreation of the large ornithopod dinosaur Muttaburrasaurus langdoni, located in Hughenden, Queensland? Well, OK, I told them their grades depended on it, so they quickly got into the spirit of things.