Montana State University

MSU students to leave May 26 for dinosaur egg research in China

May 16, 2013 -- By Evelyn Boswell, MSU News Service

Previous students who traveled to China conducted fieldwork near the town of Laijia. (Photo courtesy of Daniel Barta, member of the 2012 team).    High-Res Available

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Tel: (406) 994-4571
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BOZEMAN – Five Montana State University students will soon head to China to wrap up fieldwork for an international collaboration focused on dinosaur eggs.

Funded by a National Science Foundation grant that was extended for a fourth year, the students will leave May 26 and return June 28. They are undergraduates Coralyn Bingman from Princeton, Texas, Devra Hock from Phoenix, Ethan Schreuder from Bozeman, Nicholas Vergara from McKinney, Texas, and graduate student Daniel Lawver from Bozeman.

The students will examine approximately 200 eggs at the Zhejiang Museum of Natural History in Hangzhou, said MSU paleontologist Frankie Jackson who will lead the group. They will also return to field localities that have yielded fossils over the past three field seasons. They will revisit sites where Jackson, MSU paleontologist David Varricchio and two graduate students started excavating dinosaur egg clutches in December 2011, along with some new localities.

The Zhejiang Museum of Natural History contains approximately 3,000 dinosaur eggs whose original surroundings and unusual preservation are a mystery that the students are helping solve, Jackson said.

Students who went to China over the past three years analyzed 600 to 700 of those eggs, Jackson said. Two papers about their findings have recently been accepted for publication by the peer-reviewed journal, Historical Biology. The students have also presented their work at professional conferences and gained international experience that Jackson said provided them a competitive advantage when they applied for graduate school. In addition, several students attended the fifth annual International Symposium on Dinosaur Eggs and Babies, held in 2012 in Hangzhou.

One student who went to China the first year of the grant -- Nate Carroll of Ekalaka -- is now a master’s degree student at MSU and planning to pursue his doctorate. He is also acting curator of the Carter County Museum and led the effort to get the museum approved as a federal repository of dinosaur fossils.

“I can’t say enough good stuff about Nate. He’s phenomenal,” Jackson said.

Growing up in a small Eastern Montana town, Carroll said he sometimes doubted himself in terms of what he could accomplish. Some of his dreams seemed out of reach. But the opportunity to conduct research in China and travel internationally helped show him that “It’s all very doable.

“Without that, I probably wouldn’t have been encouraged to pursue a lot of other things,” Carroll said.

Another student who went to China -- Hannah Susorney of Marquette, Mich. -- has been accepted into Johns Hopkins University. Krista Brundridge of Orland Park, Ill., is now attending The University of Texas at Austin. She is also one of the co-authors of the upcoming papers in Historical Biology.

“A lot of others have gotten into really good schools, too,” Jackson said.

“I really do believe that having that international experience is really a competitive advantage,” Jackson added. “If I had a choice between equally qualified students, I would take the one with international experience if I were working internationally.”

The $145,000 NSF “International Research Experience for Students (IRES)” grant that Jackson and Varricchio received for the China work originally allowed nine students a year from MSU and other colleges around Montana -- 27 students over three years – to work six weeks in China. The extension will allow the five additional MSU students to work there for a month.

Evelyn Boswell, (406) 994-5135 or evelynb@montana.edu