Dinosaur expert gears up for Alaska research expedition

Published: Jul. 6, 2017 at 10:11 PM AKDT
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A dinosaur expert from Texas is preparing for an expedition into Aniakchak National Monument in hopes to discover more about the ancient animals that once inhabited Alaska.

For 20 years, Dr. Anthony Fiorillo has ventured out of the air conditioned Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas for the remote outdoors of remote Alaska. He said it’s the best way to beat the southern summer heat, while also making history.

“At the start of every one of these expeditions, the adrenaline's pumping. We are so excited to get back out there,” Fiorillo told NBC Dallas-Fort Worth.

On Wednesday he arrived in Anchorage. He said although he shipped most of his food and equipment to King Salmon, he will be spending the next few days stocking up on last minute supplies.

Fiorillo has published research about dinosaurs living at high latitudes, and according to the Perot Museum, is credited with finding the first record of any dinosaur in a National Park in Alaska.

That breakthrough discovery in southwest Alaska was first heralded in 2001, but he didn't fully realize the trove of dinosaur tracks and fossils hidden within Aniakchak National Monument until his latest trip in 2016.

“Last year was our first trip since that time [of the initial discovery,] and really it was, ‘Oh my God we missed a lot.’ There were dozens and dozens of dinosaur footprints in those cliffs in Aniakchak,” said Fiorillo.

This will be his follow-up to his 2016 mission. Fiorillo will be spending two weeks in July, as well as a few weeks in August to continue his work of collecting molds of dinosaur footprints and searching for new clues into the lives of the dinosaurs that once thrived near the Alaska Peninsula.

“I fully expect that we will find dozens of footprints and we'll learn a little bit more about the environment in which they lived,” said Fiorillo.

According to the Perot Museum, Fiorillo has worked on teams in Alaska that discovered and named two new dinosaurs since 2011, the Nanuqsaurus hoglundi and the Pachyrhinosaurus perotorum.