Michael Fix has been digging up dinosaur bones in Missouri since the 1980s. Unknown to most people, the massive prehistoric creatures made their home in the Show-Me State from about 144 million to 65 million years ago. The Discovery Channel recently featured the University of Missouri-St. Louis geologist for a piece about Midwestern dinosaurs.
“It was a treat for us to have them come to our site,” said Fix, referring to the 36 x 20 dig site in Bollinger County near Cape Girardeau, Mo., that he and fellow enthusiast Guy Darrough have cultivated for 30 years. “It was kind of a happy accident because we didn’t seek them out.”
Back in 2008, producers initially contacted a dinosaur expert in Illinois who referred them to Fix and Darrough, who incidentally makes his living creating full size reproductions of the fantastic creatures. Missouri offers up solid proof of the Hypsibema Missourise dinosaur or the hadrosaur, a duck-billed dinosaur.
“We were very pleased how it turned out,” said Fix, who has taught at UMSL since 1976 and is the resident geologist and paleontologist. “It was great exposure for not only what Missouri has to offer in terms of dinosaurs but also for UMSL.”
The show, “Prehistoric Chicago,” began airing late last year and is still running on Science and Planet Green, offshoot channels of Discovery. The documentary focuses on the Chicago area, but includes other Midwestern sites like Fix’s. Discovery made a series of prehistoric shows showcasing various regions in the U.S.
The documentary features Fix and Darrough at their dig site and at the Bollinger County Museum of Natural History, a privately funded museum. The two explain some hadrosaur bones they have dug up over the years.
Raised in the midst of the Cold War, Fix grew up in Jennings in north St. Louis County with an interest in science.
“Everyone was encouraging kids to study science,” Fix said. “I went through an early dinosaur phase, then astronomy and then geology.”
Fix spent his first two years of college at St. Louis Community College–Florissant Valley. There he met Bruce Stinchcomb, who taught geology and is a paleontologist.
Stinchcomb served as a geology mentor for Fix, who went on to earn a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in earth and planetary science from Washington University in St. Louis.
In a fortuitous turn of events, Stinchcomb purchased the only known site in Missouri to produce dinosaur bones in the 1970s. As a student, Fix was introduced to the site and in the 1980s he received permission to start his own dig with Darrough on Sinchcomb’s property.
“We just wanted to set up a spot ourselves to see what we could find,” Fix said.
Their site is covered with a greenhouse to keep it from flooding. And while he hasn’t been back there in the past year, it’s a hobby and passion he is sure will continue for many years.
“There are very few places in this part of the country where dinosaur remains are found,” Fix said. “The sites in Bollinger County are the only known spots in Missouri. Everyone should come and check out the museum down there – they’ll get hooked.”