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At the Royal Tyrrell Museum, we are equal parts excited and nervous because we just launched our first large-scale exhibit in over five years. The exhibit, Foundations, is about everything that is important to us as a science and natural history museum, from the very beginnings of planet Earth, to the evolution of life, to fossils and their journey from living beings and into our Museum collections. With its expansive scope and mix of specimens, hands-on activities, and technology, Foundations is another step in our continued commitment to studying and celebrating the history of life on Earth.

 

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The final session of the 2016 Royal Tyrrell Museum’s Speaker Series is a presentation by Jeff Zimmer, Fish and Wildlife Officer for the Drumheller district with Alberta Justice and Solicitor General on Thursday, April 28.

The recent sighting of a cougar near the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology this spring resulted in a lot of conversation in Drumheller about these misunderstood creatures. Often lumped in with their misbehaving cousins, bears, cougars have a bad reputation. In this presentation, Zimmer hopes to give people a better understanding of cougar behaviour and hopefully be less fearful of them. The cougar is Canada’s largest cat species.

Merely seeing a cougar does not mean you are in imminent danger. Cougars are generally shy and wary of humans, but are efficient hunters. They most often hunt at dusk, night, and dawn. Zimmer presents information on basic identification of a cougar’s habits and habitats, and then discusses how to prevent conflict and respond to an encounter.

Exoplanets are planets that exist outside of our solar system. The number of confirmed exoplanets is rapidly growing and now exceeds two thousand. An additional nearly 5,000 exoplanet candidates are awaiting confirmation in the NASA Exoplanet Archive. Most of these planets have been discovered by the NASA Kepler Mission, a space observatory launched by NASA specifically to discover Earth-size planets orbiting other stars. Smaller subsets of these planets are similar in size to the Earth and orbit in the (liquid water) Habitable Zones (HZ) of their host stars. It is estimated that about ten to fifteen percent of solar-type stars and about twenty to twenty-five percent of the more numerous cooler (red dwarf) stars host Earth-size HZ planets. These planets are of great interest because they have conditions roughly similar to Earth and therefore could be potentially habitable planets (PHPs).

In this talk, Dr. Edward Guinan, Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at Villanova University, Pennsylvania, briefly discusses how these exoplanets are discovered; however, the main focus will be on the stellar and planet properties that appear necessary for life to form and develop on their surfaces. New missions and techniques to detect signatures of life (bio-signatures) on these planets are presented along with the feasibility of interstellar missions to nearby HZ exoplanets that could support life.

In this talk, Dr. Annie Quinney, Postdoctoral Fellow at the Arctic Institute of North America at the University of Calgary, presents research on the recent discovery of 90 million-year-old fossil tree resin off the coast of Victoria, Australia. The fossil represents both the oldest amber from Australia and the southern-most occurrence of amber in Gondwana. During the Cretaceous, Australia was located further south than its current location, putting Victoria within the Antarctic Circle. Although little is known about the diversity of life at high southern latitudes during the Cretaceous, the preservation of amber suggests that a thriving forest was present within the Antarctic Circle at this time. At first glance, the amber appears to preserve, entombed within it, plentiful evidence of life: many amber pieces are full of inclusions that resemble microorganisms. However, although some of these inclusions are biological, many are non-biological structures masquerading as fossils. Despite difficulties differentiating between true fossils and fossil look-a-likes, the range of inclusions in a piece of amber may tell us where on a tree the resin came from.

Amber pieces dating back to the same age as the Australian amber were also found in northern Alberta and British Columbia. Geochemical analyses reveal that the Australian and Canadian ambers not only came from the same group of trees, but formed under similar environmental conditions. Comparisons with low-latitude ambers suggest that strong seasonal differences in daylight near the poles affected resin production.

Christine Shellska is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Communication, Media and Film, Faculty of Arts, at the University of Calgary. Her areas of study include the history, philosophy, and sociology of science and rhetorical methods. In this presentation of competing cultural perspectives, Shellska uses rhetorical analysis, as well as contemporary and classic debate theory, to examine some recent and high profile science-versus-religion debates between prominent science supporters and religious apologists. Some of the debate examples presented will include Bill Nye versus Ken Ham (2014), Christopher Hitchens versus William Lane Craig (2009), and Michael Shermer and Sam Harris versus Deepak Chopra and Jean Houston (2010). By examining a group of debates, commonalities and differences can be identified in the claims and debating tactics employed by Creationists, Intelligent Design Proponents, and New Agers. Although the presentation will focus primarily on the rhetoric, logic, and styles of Ham, Craig, and Chopra — prominent spokespersons for creationist, religious, and new age beliefs, respectively — Shellska also comments on the methods, styles, and counter-arguments used by the other debaters.

The primary purpose of this presentation is to explore rhetorical strategies used to debate cultural issues, especially claims that are inconsistent and / or incompatible with scientific findings. Shellska also explores discussion techniques employed by scientists and others when encountering those who reject scientific findings.

May 20, 2016

Alberta’s world-renowned Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology is getting even more exciting as it unveils a major new exhibit and a planned $9.3-million expansion, part of the Alberta Jobs Plan.

The new exhibit, Foundations, offers visitors of all ages a dynamic, interactive experience that explores the science of palaeontology and Alberta’s leadership role in the study and preservation of some of the of some of the best fossils in the world.

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The Government of Alberta is making a major $9.3-million investment to expand the Royal Tyrrell Museum facilities, including an additional hands-on learning area, classrooms, and a distance-learning space. The Museum is a key heritage tourism attraction for the province and a significant economic driver for southern Alberta. The expansion will create short- and long-term employment and diversify our economy.

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“Albertans love the Royal Tyrrell Museum and this new exhibit and expansion are sure to be dino-mite! It is truly a provincial jewel, inspiring young minds and attracting scientists and visitors from all over the world. By making the museum experience even better, the expansion money our government is announcing today will increase visitation, create jobs, and leave a legacy for future generations.”
– Ricardo Miranda, Minister of Culture and Tourism

Foundations will encourage visitors to learn about the basics of palaeontology, geology, evolution, fossilization, and the history of life on Earth. They will witness the breadth and wonder of the Museum’s collection and come to understand Alberta’s critical role in the preservation and scientific study of fossils globally.

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Multimillion-dollar expansion plans underway
Through Capital Plan 2016, the Government of Alberta is investing $9.3 million for the expansion of facilities at the Museum.

“Our government is proud to invest in this world-renowned Museum. When we build, renew and maintain infrastructure such as the Royal Tyrrell Museum, our economy gets a needed boost. Investing in infrastructure also supports jobs and strengthens Alberta’s communities.”
– Brian Mason, Minister of Infrastructure

Funding will go towards:

  • expanding facilities, including the distance learning studios
  • additional classroom and learning space
  • expanding accessible public washroom facilities
  • developing a hands-on discovery room
  • a rest area for the entire family

Construction is expected to begin in the spring of 2017 and be completed in the spring of 2019. The Museum will remain open to the public throughout the construction period.

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The Royal Tyrrell Museum is recognized globally as a premier research and education centre. It houses one of the world’s largest displays of dinosaurs and is Canada’s only museum dedicated exclusively to the science of palaeontology. Since opening its doors in 1985, the Museum has attracted more than 12 million visitors from around the world.

In 2013, tourism in Alberta generated $8 billion in visitor spending and more than 127,000 jobs.

Foundations Fact Sheet

About the Museum Fact Sheet

Media inquiries:
Carrie-Ann Lunde
Head, Marketing & Public Relations
Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology
carrie.lunde@gov.ab.ca
403-820-6208

Alberta Culture & Tourism

More than 18 provincially-owned historic sites and museums are open for the May long weekend until the end of the summer season, during the Labour Day long weekend.

For evacuees of the Alberta wildfires, regular admission fees will be waived at provincially-owned historic sites and museums until September 5. Evacuees will be required to provide photo identification or a postal code as proof of residency for family admission. We hope access to our sites and museums provides an opportunity for displaced Albertans to enjoy some activities together during this difficult time.

In 2015-2016, a total of 889,860 people visited provincial heritage facilities ranging from Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump near Fort Macleod to the Reynolds-Alberta Museum in Wetaskiwin. For a complete listing of all provincially-owned historic sites and museums and their hours of operations please click here.

Season Opening Dates

  • May 15 through Labour Day Weekend (Sept.5):
    • Victoria Settlement (near Smoky…

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