In a few years, walking into the Winona State University (WSU) Science Learning Center atrium could be a lot more awe-inspiring or terrifying, depending on how you feel about dinosaurs. Paleontology professor Lee Beatty and his colleagues in the geoscience department hope to collect and erect a complete, dump truck-sized dinosaur skeleton in the atrium. They received the first sections of bone this week.
Photo by Chris Roger
Winona State University paleontology professor Lee Beatty (right) and 2013 graduate Adam Schrader ( left) began extricating fossilized dinosaur bones from ancient mudstone.
2013 WSU Geoscience graduate Adam Schraeder pulled some strings while volunteering on a dinosaur dig in eastern Montana this summer. In the deal he worked out, WSU students will help clean off and cast hadrosaur bones he helped unearth. The actual bones will be returned, but undergraduate geoscience students will get a unique opportunity for hands-on learning that is usually reserved for graduate students, and the department may soon have an impressive new display, Beatty explained.
In a new lab space, Beatty, Schraeder, and WSU Geoscience senior Mark Brown peeled back the plaster jacket that encased limb and tail bones from a hadrosaur, a large herbivore that lived in ancient flood plains.
"This is pretty cool," said Geoscience Department head Toby Dogwiler, grinning as he watched the ancient mud and bone opened up.
Schraeder held up his hand and the whirring of a power saw stopped. "We need to pull it slowly in case there's a piece of bone stuck to the jacket," he said.
"This is the first dinosaur that's been unjacketed at WSU," Dogwiler added. Already the two, chest-sized segments of rock and bone are significant additions to WSU's dinosaur bone collection, which previously consisted of a few digits and tail bone pieces. If the department can erect a full dinosaur, "it would be a wonderful way to get kids and the general public excited about science," Beatty said.
When asked if he was a childhood dinosaur-lover, Beatty commented, "I think everybody who gets into paleontology was a dino buff."
"I always thought dinosaurs were cool," Schraeder said. "My parents thought they would get it out of me by sending me on a real dig, but it back-fired on them."