From a research perspective, you’ve got a perfect natural laboratory on your doorstep. – J o r dy H en dri k x
“Montana is very rich in dinosaurs and dinosaur-bearing rocks,” said Varricchio, who is in his ninth year as a member of the faculty at MSU. His research focuses on dinosaur reproduction and the origin of reproduction in the birds we see today. Paleontology, for him, was a way to combine his interest in animals and their biology with a sense of traveling back in time.
“I came to MSU because when I watched documentaries on dinosaurs, I noticed most took place somewhere in Montana, and Jack Horner and Dave Varricchio were being interviewed for them. I thought MSU would be a prime place to study paleontology if I wanted to pursue it as a career.”
It doesn’t hurt that MSU has a world-class paleontology facility in the Museum of the Rockies, Varricchio said. The museum “With paleontology, you almost travel to another world since provides students and faculty with the infrastructure they need it’s 75 or 100 millions years ago,” he said. “There’s that kind of to conduct serious lab work and research. When taken together excitement of discovery that awaits in the badlands of Montana.” with the state’s rich dino geology, it produces a combination Varricchio called “really exceptional.” That thrill of exploration and discovery appeals to everyone in the paleontology program, Varricchio believes. The students, Of course, all the facilities in the state wouldn’t be worth many of whom come from out of state, bring that excitement anything without the people of Montana, Metz said. They seem with them into the program, and it becomes contagious, he said. to understand the importance of the fossils buried under their land and are willing to let bunches of dinosaur hunters camp Nothing stokes that excitement quite so much as getting to out for the summer. go and actually dig up dinosaurs. Opportunities for such field research abound, said senior Daniel Barta. “The Museum of the Rockies and MSU make going out and getting the fossils feasible, but the farmers and ranchers “Performing undergraduate research in paleontology at MSU allowing us to camp on their land make it possible.” is not only a very accessible goal, it is encouraged,” the Helena native explained, stressing the program’s foundations in geology make MSU’s paleontology program unique. Background photo: Looking toward the Front Range from the Egg Mountain For senior Eric Metz of Hanford, Calif., MSU was always the clear choice for paleontology.
paleontology dig site. Small photos, from left to right: Students working at the Egg Mountain site; heading up to the ridge at Bridger Bowl to do avalanche control; dinosaur bones are common finds at the Egg Mountain site; Andrew Slaughter at the Yellowstone Club field station; sweeping vistas of the Rocky Mountain front as seen from the Egg Mountain dig site; a snow science class is conducted at Lone Mountain. Photo by Stephen Hunts.
The College of Letters and Science annual magazine. This issue is titled "Learning in the Last Best Place."