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Meet a Paleontologist
Associate Director, Museum of Geology
South Dakota School of Mines and Technology
NFD Kid's Page Interview...
What is your job, and what do you study?
I am the associate director and the collections manager at the Museum of Geology at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. I studied Triassic vertebrates when I was in college, but now I get to work with all the fossils we have.
What are you working on now?
We have two big important collections: Cretaceous marine fossils from the Western Interior Seaway (mosasaurs, plesiosaurs, ammonites, and other oceanic and fish-eating animals) and White River Badlands mammals. We have lots of other fossils as well, but these two collections have some of the most important specimens from South Dakota.
Where did you go to school? What were some of your favorite classes that you took?
I went to Texas A&M University to study wildlife biology because I was interested in vertebrate animals. hey had an option in museum science, which I loved. So I got a master's degree at Texas Tech University in museum science and did a thesis in Triassic paleontology, and worked on the fossil and mammal collections there. All of the museum classes and paleontology classes were wonderful, and I never wanted to do anything else once I took them. I also liked astronomy, English and the history of science.
Was there an experience you had that made you realize you wanted to be a paleontologist?
I can't remember a time when I wasn't fascinated by fossils. Growing up in the Texas Panhandle, I always went out on hikes with my family and looked for fossils every time.
What is your most memorable experience working with fossils?
Every time I see a fossil newly excavated, I realize that we are the first people who have ever seen this individual animal or plant, and that is a very powerful thought.
Do you have any advice for aspiring paleontologists?
Study everything that interests you, and volunteer in your local museum if that's where you want to be. That's how so many people get started.