These image files are intentionally large, so that you can read the text. While you wait for them to load, feel free to read about the project.

The mission: Create an exhibit for less than $5,000 and in less than two months. Use existing trade-show exhibit armatures, and scrounge props and artifacts from researchers’ labs.

An extra challenge: Design and produce the exhibit in such a way that it showcases the capabilities of the large-scale printer that was available for use by researchers at Pacific Forestry Centre and maintains all the design guidelines prescribed for Natural Resources Canada displays and publications. As well, the exhibit had to satisfy requirements of the Official Languages Act, and all interpretive panels had to include text in both English and French. I developed the project plan for Alien Invasives, an exhibit to be installed on the mezzanine level of the Pacific Forestry Centre in time for National Forest Week. I worked with researchers, technicians and managers from Pacific Forestry Centre to develop the interpretive concept and text for the exhibit panels, large and small. Avril Goodall, the Natural Resources Canada graphic designer, determined and executed the design concept.

The Big Idea: Scientists and policy makers at the Canadian Forest Service, Natural Resources Canada, were working to protect Canada’s forests, economy and trade from alien invasive insects.

Audience: school teachers and students who visited Pacific Forestry Centre for National Forest Week’s Forest Fair celebration, staff and visitors.

Key Messages: 

  • Invasive alien forest species are non-native organisms that thrive in Canada’s forests.
  • They can be introduced to Canada’s forests both intentionally and inadvertently, through many different pathways.
  • They can seriously alter Canada’s forest ecosystems, causing environmental, economic and social damage that can be irrevocable.
  • The Government of Canada (Natural Resources Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency) is working to prevent the introduction and spread of invasive alien forest species, and to protect Canada’s forests, economies, communities and trade.

Design and Installation: Each of the attached panels was attached to a 3.66 x 2.44-metre trade-show exhibit armature. Two of the backdrop panels were placed side by side in an arc (exhibit area 1), with the third backdrop facing it across the mezzanine (exhibit area 2). The backdrop panels were designed according to departmental common-look-and-feel design specifications, thereby allowing all other panels greater flexibility in design and presentation. Banners (~8 x 2 metres) with giant, high-resolution images of invasive species draped from steel cables framed each display area. In addition to the backdrop panels shown here, displays with interpretive signage in exhibit area 1 included:

  • A vine maple sapling, with holes drilled into the trunk. Life-size models of Asian longhorned beetles were glued into the holes.
  • A wooden spool for transporting cable, with an interpretive panel discussing how wooden packaging materials such as industrial spools and pallets transported many invasive species from other countries to Canada.
  • A display box of various invasive beetle specimens, on loan from the Pacific Forestry Centre entomology collection.

In exhibit area 2, displays with interpretive signage included:

  • A 1/2-metre-long, super-sized model of a mountain pine beetle.
  • A tree cookie and debarked log section showing beetle galleries.
  •  A funnel trap and bag, similar to those used in a recent lab study on how beetles breed and colonize new trees.

In addition, Avril Goodall designed, fabricated and installed a mobile of Asian gypsy moths in the middle of the Pacific Forestry Centre Atrium to complement the exhibit.

Water stored in the St. Mary’s Reservoir, north of Cardston, Alberta, insures area farmer’s crops against drought, which is common in that part of the province. In 1998, when the reservoir was drained to build a new spillway, researchers discovered tools used by ancient Albertans, as well as bones and footprints of at least 20 species of long-extinct animals.

“If you had stood there 11,000 years ago, you could have seen mammoths, horses, camel, caribou, bison, wolves, ground squirrels, and birds—maybe all at once,” says Len Hills, professor emeritus of geology and geophysics at the University of Calgary, and one of the scientists studying the site. Joining him in the research are university archaeologist Brian Kooyman and students Paul McNeil and Shayne Tolman, the site’s discoverer. “We know from the way the trackways are intermingled that these animals were right there, together. And man was there, too—he was part of that environment.”

The site is a window on the end of the Ice Age in southern Alberta. By inventorying the animals that lives in the region and studying the role of early humans at the site, Hills and colleagues reconstruct the ancient environment.

About 12,000 years ago, the site was an island delta at the end of a glacier-fed lake. When the St. Mary’s River later drained the lake, it created a massive floodplain west of the island Within a period of days or maybe weeks, large numbers of diverse animals visited the area to feed on the delta’s lush vegetation and drink from the nearby river, trampling the gound with their hooves and feet. Thick layers of sand and dirt blew eastward from the floodplain to bury tracks, bones, and tools. A series of brief geological moments were preserved, recording the presence of animals and humans over a 300-year period about 11,000 years ago.

The oldest tools are Clovis points, flaked-stone implements used by the first North Americans. Not far from where the team was excavating the skeleton of a horse, the researchers found toold that may have been used to kill the animal. Laboratory tests reveal traces of ancient horse protein on two of the Clovis points.

“We’ve known from other sites in North America that they hunted mammoths,” says Hills. “But this is the first sold evidence that Clovis people actually hunted horses. Maybe early humans influenced the extinction of these animals—not just mammoths, but horses, too.”

What precisely caused the disappearance of so many Ice Age mammals 12,000 to 9,000 years ago is uncertain. Climates and environments were changing rapidly as the glacier receded from the continent. Those changes alone would stress animal populations. New species from Asia may have increased competition for food, or may have introduced diseases. Humans may have been another factor in the ecological reorganization.

When McNeil inventoried and analyzed the fossil trackways, comparing information about movement and size of the ancient animals with data from tracks made by modern elephant herds, he found some evidence that the herds visiting the reservoir site 11,000 years ago were stressed.
“The ratio of young animals to adults was far below what we would consider healthy levels in modern populations of similar animals,” he says. “This site captures this one brief moment in time and tells us something was definitely happening.”

The magnitude of the site is the way that it is letting us see how these animals interacted with their environment, with each other, and with early humans.

excerpted from: Reading the Rocks: A Biography of Ancient Alberta

History Mystery: Serving Mallet quiz

From 2004–2010, I edited the Maritime Museum of B.C.’s member newsletter, Waterlines, and annual journal, Resolution. B.C. Magazine approached me at that time to submit a piece about any strange and unlikely artifact from the museum’s collection for the magazine’s History Mystery quiz column.

History Mystery solved: Serving Mallet quiz


Sample pages from Ornithomimus: Pursuing the Bird-Mimic Dinosaur, by Monique Keiran. Published by the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology and Raincoast Books, 2002.

The Ice Ages Gallery

The Pleistocene Epoch
2 million years to present, at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology, Drumheller, Alberta

The Royal Tyrrell Museum opened the Ice Ages Gallery in 1999. A collaboration between curators, technical staff, the exhibits team and others, it tells the story of Alberta from two million years ago to the present—the time called the Pleistocene, when huge mammals roamed, great ice sheets came and went, and humans first arrived in North America.

I prepared the text for the panels and labels. Browse through the image gallery below for a view of gallery displays and signage. To read the signage, click on the image.

Compare these two interpretive display signs.

Staff at the Yale Peabody Museum wrote this sign for its traveling exhibit, China's Feathered Dinosaurs.

Staff at the Yale Peabody Museum wrote this sign for its traveling exhibit.

Monique Keiran wrote text for this sign for a Royal Tyrrell Museum specimen supplementing the Yale Peabody exhibit.

Monique Keiran wrote text for this sign for a Royal Tyrrell Museum display supplementing the licensed exhibit.















The license for the Yale Peabody Museum’s China’s Feathered Dinosaurs exhibit allowed host museums to add to the displays, but forbade them from changing any material provided by the Yale Peabody.

The Royal Tyrrell Museum faced a challenge: How to seamlessly fit its own specimens and interpretive panels and signs into the existing exhibit.

Click Dinosaur trading cards to view a sample of dinosaur trading cards, with interpretive text by Monique Keiran.

The three trading cards form part of a 12-card series published by the Royal Tyrrell Museum Cooperating Society.

Trex teacher's resource guideIn 1998, IMAX Corporation and the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology joined forces. IMAX filmed its first fictional IMAX film at the museum—and it was about dinosaurs. Of course.

One of the collateral projects that accompanied the film was a teacher’s resource guide. I worked with Sue Mander, from IMAX, and the Tyrrell’s education staff and researchers to produce text and activities for the guide.

Click T.rex: Back to the Cretaceous teacher’s resource guide to access a PDF that samples the guide.

Warning: this is a large file, and will take time to load.