Want to be part of a dinosaur dig? Book your place now!

Published 08 May 2017

The University of New England has partnered with the Australian Opal Centre and the Australian Geographic Society to offer interested parties the opportunity of a lifetime.

UNE’s world-renowned dinosaur hunter Dr Phil Bell and a team of experts will lead two dinosaur and fossil digging expeditions in the opal-rich area of Lightning Ridge this August and are looking for volunteers.

“The area around Lightning Ridge is the world’s richest known source of rare opalised fossils. It’s usually only opal miners and scientists who get to search for opalised fossils, but on the Lightning Ridge Fossil Dig, anyone can experience these incredible moments of discovery,” Dr Bell said.

Dr Bell has led teams of researchers and volunteers on dinosaur digs around the world and started his own career as a volunteer at a dig in Canada.

“Digs like this offers us a window on the ancient land in which we live and the dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures that roamed it. Previously, diggers have found dinosaur teeth and bones, fossil crocodile and turtle bones, plesiosaur (marine reptile) teeth, and hundreds of other items. ”

The annual dinosaur dig attracts diggers ages 18 to 81 from across Australia as well as internationally. It is primarily a scientific and fundraising venture for the Australian Opal Centre and Australian Geographic Society but has led to many opportunities for volunteers too.

Previous dig participant and UNE student, Melissa Jones holding two dinosaur bones she discovered.

Previous dig participant and UNE student, Melissa Jones holding two dinosaur bones she discovered.

“For some participants it’s been life changing –  it’s led to volunteer work with the Australian Opal Centre, new jobs, going back to university or even starting uni for the first time. For everyone it’s meant new experiences and lasting friendships. And it’s resulted in the discovery of dozens of new fossils for scientific study,” Ms Jenni Brammall Manager of the Opal Centre said.

There are currently 15 places available for one of two six-day slots: Monday 7 August to Saturday 12 August or Monday 14 August to Saturday 19 August.

The cost is $2,200 per person or $1,980 for return diggers.  Costs includes all activities and most meals but excludes accommodation and transport.

The Lightning Ridge digs will be guided by leading experts and will allow volunteers to take part in fieldwork that is usually only conducted by professional scientists. The specimens uncovered during the digs will be added to the Australian Opal Centre’s world-class collection.

The digs are open to everyone and no previous experience is required.

What previous diggers had to say:

  • I feel privileged to have taken part in the Lightning Ridge Fossil Dig. Not only did I learn a lot, I had a fun time and was inspired by the mysteries of the world we live in and by the incredible team who put it together. If you get the chance, do it. Johanna O’Connell, Picton, New Zealand.
  • This has been a truly incredible experience and one I will treasure for many years to come. The knowledge I have gained from experts in their field, and the new friendships formed, have been priceless. Robert Manella, Adelaide.
  • It was one of the greatest experiences of our lives! Kirsten Beidatsch, Karen Winnett and Mia Hunt, Mt Barker, Western Australia.
  • Great fun, great learning experience and did I say it already…great fun! Great to feel helpful as well. Tim and Kirsten Cowley, Florey, ACT.
  • The Dig allowed me to see how difficult it is to find and extract Australia’s opal and to learn about the animals and plants that lived at Lightning Ridge 110 million years ago. It is an amazing story! Helen Ward, Kangaroo Point, Queensland.

Featured image: Previous dig participant and UNE student, Timothy Frauenfelder holding a plesiosaur (marine reptile) tooth he discovered.