WISD staff member retires to dig for dinosaurs

Julie Hastings pursues love of paleontology with husband

Daily Light report
Julie Hastings lies next to leg bones that once belonged to a gigantic dinosaur during a dig in Colorado.

Julie Hastings has served Waxahachie ISD in the district administration office supervising federal programs and grants for 13 years. But in her free time, she digs for dinosaurs.

One will notice her hobby simply by a glimpse into her office, as it is decorated with various bones, and photos of her digs, each telling a unique story.

Julie was introduced to paleontology when she met her husband, Carson, who already had a passion for dinosaurs. The two were married in 2008 and on their first-year anniversary, they ventured to The Creation Evidence Museum of Texas, located in Glen Rose. The two were lucky to meet the founder of the nonprofit and learned more about track digs, an activity where people uncover dinosaur footprints.

The couple has volunteered for a decade at the museum by cleaning up the track areas, making them less dangerous for others who want to explore. Julie explained when in Glen Rose, Acrocanthosaurus tracks are the most common along the Paluxy River.

“These are the same footprints in Dinosaur Valley,” Julie explained.

Julie then went on to detail the variety of dinosaurs she has tracked, further describing everything from physical traits to what each ate.

Through the Hastings’ commitment to the museum, they have been personally invited to Colorado for the past 10 years to extract more findings to later be processed at the museum. The couple serves as area supervisors for the annual trip, with Julie working with the mothers and children, while her husband focuses on digging with the other adults.

Bones from 17 different dinosaurs have been uncovered by the Hastings in Colorado, in an area that has been excavated for 25 years now. Julie explained the area of the dig is located in the Morrison Formation, which is a fertile source of dinosaur fossils in North America.

“It’s basically a dinosaur bone yard,” Julie detailed. “There are bones everywhere.”

The Hastings have only discovered bones in Colorado, but not any tracks. Julie has found Camarasauruses, Ankylosauruses, and noted that Stegosauruses are the most common in that area. Last year, she found part of a mandible, which “…was exciting because finding part of a skull is unusual.” She then agreed that finding bones is an extremely rewarding feeling and that once she finds one, she is eager to find the next.

While sitting in her office, Julie — who is 5 feet, 2 inches tall — pointed to a framed photo taken in 2012 of herself lying next to a 56-inch-long bone that she described as “my first big find.” It was a femur and tibia of either an Apatosaurus or Ankylosaurus.

Julie has dug 18 feet into the Colorado rock to find bones. “Very rarely, we don’t find anything,” she said with a smile.

Since the bones are so fragile, Julie follows a strict process to preserve them. First, a glue-type applicator is smeared on the bone and soaks through to preserve it. But, if soft tissue is present, the glue cannot be utilized as it will ruin the tissue; instead, a super glue-type substance will be applied to the surface.

When a bone is discovered, it is chiseled out of the rock and is then “pedestaled,” meaning it is raised off the ground. Once it is covered in foil, a burlap material that is soaked in plaster of Paris is then placed to cover the whole bone. Once the protection is set, excavators will continue to dig under the bone, releasing it entirely from the rock and will then roll it over to plaster the other side. This process is especially necessary when transporting the findings over 2,000 miles back to Glen Rose.

Julie is excited to work in the new lab opening at The Creation Evidence Museum of Texas and to assist in more bone processing when she is retired. She will actively process the bones that have been collected for the past 25 years and work in the new hypobaric chamber lab that will recreate the pre-flood conditions to see how that ecosystem affects plants, insects, and reptiles.

Through her paleontology experience, Julie has been able to uncover scientific evidence of creation, meet people with the same passion to travel, and spend quality time with her husband.