THE BURGESS SHALE STORY - PIECE 1: INTRODUCTION TO THE BURGESS SHALE

Host Voice:
Many ancient cultures extolled the virtues of teaching and learning in settings of compelling natural beauty. Imagine experiencing just such a setting high in the mountains with a vista of glaciers, lakes and mighty peaks and, at the same time, imagine standing upon the threshold of a place that unlocks the secrets of 500,000,000 years of earth's history.

This is the Burgess Shale, a United Nations World Heritage Site, near Field, British Columbia in Yoho National Park. With a little bit of effort you can hike to the fossils for yourself and experience what has brought a century of scientists from around the world to this site.
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Let us now hear from some of them.
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Dr. Jean-Bernard Caron
Field Interview
00:20-00:36
16 secs
"The Burgess Shale is an exceptional fossil deposit in British Columbia, in Yoho National Park, and it's very unique because of the preservation of soft-body organisms."
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Host Voice:
Dr. Jean-Bernard Caron, associate curator of invertebrate palaeontology at the Royal Ontario Museum.
6 secs 67 secs

Dr. Jean-Bernard Caron
Park Radio interview
00:39-1:08
29 secs
"In this particular locality, you find animals with not only limbs, eyes and elements of the body parts, but also evidence of what their last meal was; for example you could find fragments of shelly organisms, organisms with mineralized parts still in the guts of some of these organisms."
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Host Voice:
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Another scientist who has devoted his career to the understanding of the Burgess Shale is professor Dr. Derek Briggs from the Peabody Museum of Natural History at Yale University, USA.
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Dr. Derek Briggs
2:42-2:48
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"The Burgess Shale is one of the most exceptionally preserved kinds of fossil faunas."
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2:56-3:10
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"And I should say exceptional preservation is preservation of features other than the so-called hard parts; the bio-mineralized parts like shells, bones or teeth, so the soft tissues."
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3:11-3:30
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"And actually there are quite a number of fossil deposits, younger and indeed older than the Burgess Shale that fall into this category and they tell us more about the diversity of life at any point in time than does the so-called normal fossil record."
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Host Voice:
6 secs
Questions and answers about the origin of animal life arise from the study of the Burgess Shale.
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Dr. Jean-Bernard Caron
Park Radio interview

2:46-3:00
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"When did animals originate and what's the relationship between all these animals is a very important question that scientists, in particular, paleontologists and biologists are trying to answer."
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3:03-3:23
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"So the fossil record provides evidence that animals actually appeared very suddenly during the so-called evolution's big bang, about half a billion years ago, or 540,000,000 years ago, and the Burgess Shale is about 505,000,000 years old."
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Host Voice:
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What was our earth like then, and how did these fossils end up high in the Rockies? Dr. Desmond Collins, former curator at the Royal Ontario Museum, on site at one of the Burgess Shale finds, muses, then gives us some details.
194 secs

Dr. Desmond Collins
CBC Ideas tape

50:30-50:34
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"The Burgess Shale has always been sort of a mythical kind of place."
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musical upsweep theme for emphasis

8:44-8:49
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"This was all under the sea half a billion years ago. At this time there was no life on land."
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00:06-00:10
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sound effects of splitting rock
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8:56-9:09
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"This was thought to be a submarine platform, the front or cliff of the platform, and then the platform supposedly extended a hundred or more kilometres into the east, into Alberta, half a billion years ago."
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9:14-9:20
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"In the mountain-building of the last hundred million years, this has all come up and has possibly been pushed eastward several 100 miles."
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Host Voice:
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However, there are two more pieces to this puzzle; the where and the how.
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Dr. Jean-Bernard Caron
Park Radio interview
14:07-14:41
34 secs
"These marine animals lived in tropical oceans at the time, and the continents were very different than today. And the Burgess Shale was in fact close to the equator, and the North-American paleo-continent was basically rotated 90 degrees from what we know today. So you should imagine the border of British Columbia and Alberta being close to, parallel to the equator at that time, about 505,000,000 years ago."
267 secs

Host Voice:
Dr. Desmond Collins
2 secs 269 secs

Dr. Desmond Collins
CBC Ideas tape
13:50-13:57
7 secs
"The conventional description of what happened here at the Burgess Shale is that the animals all show signs of being buried catastrophically."
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14:03-14:16
13 secs
"So it's thought that they were living either on top of the platform or down on the mud floor of the platform, that the mud was on a slope, so every so often part of it would slip away in a mud slide."
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Host Voice:
Dr. Caron resumes.
2 secs 291 secs

Dr. Jean-Bernard Caron
Field Interview
1:36-2:05
29 secs
"We know that these fossils were buried very quickly, and the mud was very fine, so the mud probably sealed the organisms from the penetration of the oxygen; oxygen would have probably increased decay of the soft tissues, and eventual destruction of the organisms."
320 secs

Host Voice:
7 secs
Perhaps the most compelling and fortunate aspect of this discovery is that it is in the public domain; it belongs to everyone. 327 secs

Dr. Jean-Bernard Caron
Park Radio interview
34:57-35:02
5 secs/2secs
35:08-35:09
"The fossils are in fact property of Parks Canada and the ROM.
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music upsweep for emphasis

35:11-35:23
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"Those fossils are on loan, basically, on trust, for further studies and to keep them in collections for future generations."
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CONCLUSION-EXTRO

Host Voice:
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August 2009 is the 100th anniversary of the Burgess Shale finds, and Parks Canada has many activities planned in commemoration. These will include art exhibits, public presentations by the world's leading scientists in Banff, campground theatre productions, interpretive hikes to the fossil beds all summer, and much, much more.

Contact Parks Canada for information on any of these opportunities.

Contributors were Dr. Jean-Bernard Caron of the ROM, Dr. Desmond Collins courtesy of CBC Ideas, and Dr. Derek Briggs of Yale University.

The Burgess Shale Story is sponsored by Parks Canada and the Friends of Banff Park Radio.
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360 seconds or 6 minutes to fine edit