AMATEUR and seasoned palaeontologists are being offered the trip of a lifetime to uncover the lost dinosaurs of Mongolia this September.
University of New England palaeontologists, Associate Professor Phil Bell and Dr Nic Campione, will run a two-week expedition to the Gobi Desert, also known as the "dinosaur mecca", to discover and collect dinosaur remains.
They will also assist in international efforts to counter the black-market trade of illegal fossils from Mongolia.
Run by world-class tour operator, Mongolia Quest, the expedition will involve the exploration of several remote pockets of the Gobi Desert, including the famous "dinosaur tomb" of Altan Uul; the Toson Bumbat Mountains; Mongolia's grand canyon, Khermyn Tsav and Tugrigiin Shiree, best known as the place where scientists uncovered a fossil of a Protoceratops and a Velociraptor locked in combat.
Over the two weeks, attendees will have the opportunity to work with experts to discover, excavate and collect new dinosaur finds, experience nomadic life and the historical heritage of the region, and help to piece together the puzzle of how Mongolia's dinosaurs once lived.
"This will be an unforgettable experience for anyone out there with a love of dinosaurs and a sense of adventure," Associate Professor Bell said.
He has led many similar expeditions across Mongolia, Canada and Australia.
The Gobi Desert is renowned as one of the richest areas in the world for the discovery of dinosaur fossils, including the Velociraptor, Gallimimus and Tarbosaurus.
"However, illegal fossil poaching has had a devastating impact on the region's natural history heritage, and we've lost countless dinosaurs to these activities," Associate Professor Bell said.
"With this expedition, we're hoping to restore lost locality and geological information for some of the specimens that have been repatriated and also find plenty of new things."
Third year PhD student, Nathan Enriquez, has just embarked on a similar expedition to the Gobi Desert with Associate Professor Bell.
He said the opportunity to visit the "Dragon's Tomb" was a career highlight.
"Skin preservation is traditionally patchy but here there are blocks of skin lying around everywhere, which was amazing to see in the field," Mr Enriquez said.
"It was the trip of a lifetime. Very few people get to visit this remote part of Mongolia and it's something I will remember for the rest of my life."
Nic Campione, a senior lecturer in Palaeobiology and unit-coordinator of UNE's GEOL210 unit, Dinosaurs!, said the expedition would build on UNE's efforts to make palaeontology accessible to all.
"Over the past decade, UNE has planted itself as a world-leading institution for palaeontological research, and since then we've made amazing strides in elevating palaeontological teaching," Dr Campione said.
"Palaeontology provides us with critical perspectives of Earth, life, and even time, and we are committed to making palaeontology accessible.
"So, whether you're a student, a researcher, a dino nerd, or you just want to try something new, come help palaeontologists access new areas of the Gobi and understand it's long-extinct dinosaur communities."
The expedition will take place between September 5 and 19, 2024.