Going Public: SEMO Students Return With Dinosaur Fossils After An Expedition In Montana's Badlands
In June 2021, a group of students from Southeast Missouri State University embarked on an expedition in the Badlands of Montana in search of dinosaur fossils.
The trip was coordinated by Professor Pamela Mills at Southeast after students expressed enthusiasm in her personal trip stories of returning with fossils.
While in Montana students discovered a wide variety of dinosaur bones including teeth, brow horns, vertebrae, triceratops skulls and frill, as well as fossils from the triceratops and Tyrannosaurus Rex species.
On the trip students were supported in the field by the Adventure 360-Paleo X Team, volunteer experts who trained the students during their excavation process, as well as provided all necessary permits and additional staff with advanced degrees in paleontology.
Students spent their mornings and afternoons excavating and logging fossils, and in the evenings the group attended educational presentations hosted by the 360-Paleo X team.
Professor Mills explained the hands-on field work students receive is an experience that cannot be simulated, or replaced by classroom learning.
“It's really hard to imagine being in a place that when you walk along, there's a huge dinosaur vertebrae just laying out on the ground, where it has weathered out of the rock strata, when there's only been one dinosaur that's ever been found here in Missouri,” said Mills. When they're out in the Badlands, not only do they get to experience a whole different type of climate, but also there's a big difference in the geology --in Missouri, you're not going to be able to see the metamorphic rocks you're going to be able to see in Montana.
After the dig, the fossils are exported back to Southeast, where students continue to clean and reconstruct the bones throughout the semester. After the process is finalized, the fossils are loaned to educational outreach programs.
“We've made relationships with the Discovery Playhouse which is downtown Cape Girardeau on Broadway. This past summer, they did a geologic camp and one of the things they did was allow younger students to take some of the bones and clean them and start trying to piece them back together,” said Mills. “This past week at Space Week some of the students that went to Montana had an interactive booth where they explained what dinosaur bones had to do with space, and they had a little interactive sandbox where the younger students could dig for dinosaur bones in the sand.”
Mills plans to continue the expedition tradition, with the next trip planned for July 17, 2022.
Students from all studies are welcomed to attend the trip.