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Film crew looking to showcase Canada’s natural history through documentary series

A film crew based in Drumheller is looking to produce a documentary series about Canada’s natural history, featuring impressive fossil finds from around the East Kootenay.

The television series, titled “Beneath Your Feet,” will document the natural history of communities across the country.

“As the title suggests, our host will go to small towns and cities across Canada – and maybe North America – to find out about the natural history, paleontology and the fossils that were discovered in the area,” said Jacob Sulit, Dinosaur Valley Studios film producer. “It’s like a science/travel show, with a little bit of comedy to take in a little bit of a light direction.”

Dinosaur Valley Studios president Frank Hadfield said a pilot episode is in the works with footage from Sparwood and Fernie.

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Hadfield said Sparwood has a rare and unique fossil on display at its museum, making it a destination for any paleontology enthusiast.

“We’re going to be focusing on their amazing dinosaur trackway that were found at a mine site near town,” said Hadfield. “They have two different kinds of dinosaurs that were found in this trackway together: it was a pack of meat-eating dinosaurs chasing a herd of plant-eating sauropods – the long-necked dinosaurs.”

Dinosaur Valley Studios has worked with the Sparwood Museum in the past, by creating and designing an exhibit for this fossil trackway.

The fossil dates back to the Jurassic period, about 150 to 200 million years ago.

Hadfield said fossils from that era are rare in Canada to begin with, and fossilized trackways of a predatory chase are rarer still.

“There have been isolated examples of trackways left by theropods – meat-eating dinosaurs, sauropods and other varieties of dinosaur that were found at these mine sites throughout the Elk Valley,” said Hadfield.

“To have such a beautifully preserved trackway that shows a herd of animals being pursued by a pack of meat-eaters – there may be two or three other examples of this worldwide,” said Hadfield. “This is an amazing resource for education right on the doorstep of Sparwood and the Elk Valley.”

Fernie will also make an appearance in the pilot episode.

“They have an amazing ammonite – one of those coiled shell fossils – that was six feet across. It’s on a mountainside, just outside of Fernie,” said Hadfield. “You have the fossil from something that lived in the ocean, and it’s now almost 1,000 kilometres inland and on the side of a mountain. It’s a seashell the size of a giant truck tire. That’s pretty cool.”

Ammonites were an ancient relative of squid and octopus that lived during the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, about 200 million years ago.

The film crew will be back in the Kootenays to film in early April.

“Cranbrook has an amazing story to tell as well. They have what is probably the world’s greatest collection of trilobites – the little pillbug-looking fossils,” said Hadfield. “There’s a huge diversity of these amazing little critters there, and most of them were found by two amateur collectors. It’s a story that needs to be told because these are world-class specimens and a lot of them are brand-new to science.”

Trilobites are one of the earliest known arthropods and date back to the Cambrian period, which was about 521 million years ago.

The pilot episode of “Beneath Your Feet” will be shown at the Banff World Media Festival on June 9.

“We encourage everyone to get out there and look around and find these fossils,” said Hadfield. “Hopefully with this series, it will help promote the ethical collection of discovery of a whole suite of new specimens.”

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