Friday, November 15, 2013

The World’s Only Paleoscatologist Visits The Pioneer Trails Regional Museum, Bowman, North Dakota

Nautilus is reporting:
Ms Karen Chin was in North Dakota visiting Dean Pearson, a paleontologist at the Pioneer Trails Regional Museum, who has done a great deal of work on the K-Pg. Pearson tries to create reconstructions of what the environment looked like prior to and after the big event by studying a geologically rich outcropping that contains evidence of the impact. The K-Pg boundary is marked by a thin layer of sediment containing high levels of iridium, an element that is scarce on earth but abundant in asteroids and comets, as well as two types of rock created by powerful impacts: shocked quartz and glass spherules.  
Chin isn’t the world’s only paleoscatologist—a handful of other researchers around the world study the fossilized excrement of ancient peoples to learn about their diet, health, and lifestyles, and a few others study the fossilized droppings of extinct animals. But Chin is an undisputed leader in the field, and her work has brought new insights to scientists’ understanding of Mesozoic Era, when towering reptiles walked the earth. “I think it’s fair to say I’ve studied more dinosaur feces than most,” she says modestly.  
A few weeks ago on my trip back to the Bakken I had the wonderful experience of touring one of the best museums in the country when it comes to dinosaurs and regional history: the Pioneer Trails Regional Museum. I was very, very surprised how really nice this museum was. It is worth your while, if anywhere in the area, to make a side trip to visit the museum. Check the webite/call ahead ot make sure it's open the day you plan to visit.

A bit more from the linked article on Ms Chin's background:
In the 1980s, Chin was getting a master’s degree in biology at Montana State University when she took a job with the legendary dinosaur hunter Jack Horner, the inspiration for the paleontologist protagonist in Jurassic Park. At first, Chin’s job was simply to slice fossilized bones into thin sections that Horner could examine under the microscope. They were working with fossils found in Montana’s Two Medicine Formation, a sandstone outcropping that Horner was exploring.
The rock layers were rich with bones of a newfound duck-billed dinosaur named Maiasaura, and not just the bones—also nests and eggs, and strange blobby deposits a bit removed from the nests. Horner believed these chunky rocks, embedded with shreds of fossilized plant material, were dinosaur patties.
I read Jack Horner's first book, and still have it in my library. It's a keeper. 

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