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Museum to host national conference

Dickinson Dinosaur Museum will serve as host to a weekend-long paleontology conference this September. (file photo / The Dickinson Press)

Dickinson Dinosaur Museum will serve as host to a national paleontology conference this September.

The Society for Vertebrate Paleontology, attended by Dickinson museum paleontologists, is holding its annual conference in Australia this year.

The Dickinson conference will be an alternative to the one being held in Australia, Dr. Liz Freedman-Fowler, museum paleontologist, explained at Wednesday's meeting of the museum board.

"A lot of people, especially government workers and grad students and researchers, cannot afford the time or money to go to Australia," she said, "so we're going to have an alternate meeting here."

A preliminary survey to gauge interest received a "huge response."

"We had over 60 people fill out the survey," Freedman-Fowler said. "We were thinking maybe 25 to 50 attendees, and now we're thinking 50 to 100."

Dickinson State University has granted the museum use of its lecture halls and science building for the event, with social events being hosted at the museum.

The museum is also partnering with the North Dakota Geological Survey in Bismarck.

"It's going to be a full academic conference," Freedman-Fowler said, "but we will have at least one public component where we'll do an open discussion, with a panel of paleontologists, and people can ask them any questions they like."

The discussion could also be livestreamed, Freedman-Fowler suggested.

The conference will be held Sept. 13 through 17.

It should not conflict with a Theodore Roosevelt Conference planned for the same weekend.

"(That) conference is relatively small, and they do their lectures at DSU on Friday and spend Saturday in Medora," Freedman-Fowler said. "We're doing our lectures at DSU on Saturday and Sunday."

The conference will include a field trip hosted by Bismarck ND Geological Survey, with trips around North Dakota and badlands area.

Freedman-Fowler, with museum paleontologist Dr. Denver Fowler, with host a cretaceous-themed field trip to sites in Montana.

"It's an academic level conference," Freedman-Fowler added, "but registration is open to anyone who wants to attend."

Museum Director Robert Fuhrman called the event "pretty exciting."

In other business:

Dickinson Dinosaur Museum saw its numbers increase in 2018, Fuhrman reported to the museum board.

He described the increase as "pretty gratifying."

Admissions were up 24.67 percent, with 15,226 visitors in 2018, and increase from 12,213 visitors in 2017, Fuhrman said.

Admissions sales were up 25.39 percent in 2018, earning $71,430, up from $56,966 in 2017.

Gift shop sales increased 16.95 percent, receiving $57,419, up from $49,085 the previous year.

Already, January 2019 is showing an increase in attendance and sales from same time in 2018, Fuhrman said.

He could not explain why sales have increased during the winter month.

"It just is what it is," he said. "Sometimes people in the summer, they'll spend a lot of money, and some people, if they're on the tail end of their trip, don't spend a lot of money. It's just kind of hard to say."