Webb’s Fall Fossil-hunting Trips Resume
Students in Vivian Webb School’s freshman class trekked to the hills outside of Barstow on Oct. 1, 2, and 3 to excavate fossils and camp beneath a magnificent night sky as annual Peccary Trips resumed.
The fossil-hunting trips have been known as Peccary Trips since a Webb School of California student stumbled across a 15 million-year-old peccary skull in 1936, sparking a surge in paleontological passions that led to the creation of the Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology.
Peccary Trips feature tentless camping in the desert, night sky viewings through Webb telescopes, traditional dinners and breakfasts made in “peccary pans” handed down over the decades and, of course, fossil hunting by day.
“We had great weather and absolutely gorgeous night skies,” said Dr. Andrew Farke, director of the Alf Museum and trip leader. “We collected many scientifically significant fossils of horses, camels and other extinct wildlife for addition to the Alf Museum’s collection, study by Webb students and access by outside researchers.”
Over the years, Webb’s Peccary Trips during the school year and summer have generated almost all the more than 195,000 specimens in the Alf Museum’s collection, including some of the world’s premiere trackways, the most complete skeleton of a baby Parasaurolophus and other wonders.
The class trips are part of Webb’s freshman Evolutionary Biology class, which includes a four-week section on paleontology. Webb also offers advanced courses in paleontology and museum research, which have generated about 50 scientific papers co-authored by students and published in peer-reviewed journals.
But Peccary Trips are always about more than just the fossils – as cool as those are.
“Some of the best memories for me were seeing students connect with each other, connect with the landscape and soak in the gorgeous views. Our camp had some adorable visitors, including a desert horned lizard and some very energetic kangaroo rats. The dark skies provided excellent views, including what was for some students their first-ever glimpse of the Milky Way,” Farke said.
Students at Webb School of California will make their own trek to the desert later this month; sophomores at both schools – who could not go on the trips in 2020 because of the pandemic – will enjoy Peccary Trips in spring.
Fieldwork and collection of vertebrate fossils are conducted under permit from the U,S, Bureau of Land Management, and all specimens are reposited at the Alf Museum.