Stories & Commentaries

Southwestern Celebrates Milestone at Dinosaur Research Project Dig


summer dinosaur dig

Drake Smith marks his find at the 21st SWAU summer dinosaur dig with GPS coordinates. Photo provided by Southwestern Adventist University

Southwestern Adventist University’s annual dig for dinosaur bones in northeastern Wyoming commenced on June 1 and will run through the month. Art Chadwick, Southwestern research professor, with the support of other professors from Southwestern, Loma Linda University, and Southern Adventist University, has led the project since he started it in 1996. During this, the 21st dig season, a new milestone was achieved. The 20,000th officially documented bone of the Dinosaur Research Project was found and uncovered!

The discoverer was none other than Drake Smith, an 11-year-old boy from Burleson, Texas, on the dig with his family. Smith’s father, Jared Wood, is a herpetologist and professor at Southwestern Adventist University. The bone Smith found was a chevron (tail bone), likely from an Edmontosaurus.

“I was just so excited to find a bone that was a cool find, and it was the first one I dug up myself,” says Smith. “Then, I heard it was the 20,000th bone and I was super excited. I was really glad my dad was there and I got to help him with the dinosaurs.”

“This young man found and uncovered the bone all by himself. It’s a wonderful thing to see the next generation enthusiastic about preserving this part of Earth’s history,” says Chadwick. “In all the years I’ve been out here, I still get a thrill from these discoveries.”

The moment illustrates the significance of this particular dig and the wishes of the property owners of the ranch where the bones are located. While other property owners have chosen to sell the bones found on their property, members of the Hanson family instead chose to establish the Hanson Research Station to protect the bones on their property to preserve their use for science and education.

All ages and levels of interest and skill are welcome at the dig. During the annual month-long dig season, participants in the dig range from scientists to high school and college students taking the dinosaur class for credit, to families and church groups. Participants come from all around the world too. This year alone, visitors have come from many different states such as New York, Texas, Washington, Ohio, Maryland, Missouri, Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Tennessee, Georgia, Oregon, North Carolina, Montana, Massachusetts, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. The countries represented include Hungary, Japan, China, Canada, Indonesia, Japan, Thailand, and Argentina.

Dr. Art Chadwick helping student

Dr. Art Chadwick helps a student record their GPS coordinates during Southwestern Adventist University's June 2017 dinosaur dig in Wyoming.
Photo provided by Southwestern Adventist University

This season also holds special significance as Southwestern Adventist University is partnering with the Hope Channel to film a television series. A film crew from the Hope Channel is on site at the dig for the entire month. More information on the release of the series will be shared soon.

The chevron bone will have its own place of honor at Southwestern Adventist University’s Dinosaur Science Museum in Keene, Texas. The Museum is free and open to the public. For more information or to schedule a group tour, please visit or like the Museum on Facebook at

Click here to watch the video of the discovery of the 20,000th bone; or access the video at the Facebook page above.