BYU Museum of Paleontology study thousands of new fossils

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(Joel Leighton)

A new project at the BYU Museum of Paleontology hopes to shed light on a dinosaur that lived in Utah. Students from the geology department are tirelessly working to learn about Utah’s past.

Locked behind glass, students busy themselves excavating fossils from a recent dig in Moab. The excavation brought back more than 1,000 specimens from roughly four prehistoric species, including an armored Dinosaur called Gastonia.

Geology student Caleb Omell is working on excavating what he believes to be a Gastonia skull bone.

“What I have is what I think to be part of the Maxilla, front part of the skull near the nostrils. They are Nodasaurs, which are kind of like Ankylosaur, the really famous ones with the clubbed tails,” Omell said.

Omell uses drills and chisels to carve the bone out of the rock. Omell then polishes the fossils and figures out where the bone comes from in the body. The process is long, but the payoff is rewarding, he said.

“This is something I enjoy. Sometimes I do go out and I say hi to people and say hey this is a bone I’m working on,” Omell said.

The students will compare their findings with other research and find new clues about the life and habits of Gastonia. New, never-before-seen fossils paint a fuller picture of the Dinosaur.

The Geology Department will present its findings to the scientific community at a Paleontology convention.

Paleontology student Jacob Frewin has been cleaning up the fossils from the dig.

“We study in detail every nook and cranny of the fossil and see what we can learn from it, and then what we do is we compile that into a report or a paper, a presentation to be given at a paleontology conference and then that work is then published to the public,” Frewin said.

BYU boasts a rich history of fossil discoveries, including the identification of seven new Dinosaur species. Many of these first discoveries remain stored at the museum.

“If you wanna see some awesome science being done, and I mean currently, come to the museum,” Omell said.

Full excavation of the fossils can take months, so the intrepid paleontologists will be sitting at the museum for quite a while doing a lot of drilling.

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