A Research Experience in Dinosaur Paleontology for K-12 Teachers




Frankie Jackson, Ph.D.
Department of Earth Sciences
204 Traphagen Hall
Montana State University
Bozeman, Montana  59717
Phone:  (406) 994-6642

Application Link

Summer Research 2011



A National Science Foundation provides K-12 teachers with an unique opportunity for research experience.  Eight teachers a summer will join paleontologists David Varricchio and Frankie Jackson, Department of Earth Sciences, MSU-Bozeman,  in conducting research at the Egg Mountain locality near Choteau, Montana.  This locality, owned by the Museum of the Rockies Inc., preserves outstanding fossil resources, primarily fossil eggs and nesting horizons. 


Successful applicants will participate in a 1-day workshop about the regional geology and paleontology of the East Front of the Rocky Mountains. Teachers will review the scientific method, formulate hypotheses, and discuss how such hypothese may be tested. After joining the paleontology field crew at the excavation site the following day, teachers will fully participate in the research, working in a quarry for 6 days a week for two weeks. Weather, especially wind, often contributes to challenging working and living conditions. Fossil eggs and nests are surrounded by very hard limestone, requiring excavation with rock hammers and chisels, as well as jackhammers. In addition to eggs, the limestone preserves small dinosaur bones, intact lizard and mammal skeletons, and insect pupa cases.  The research requires breaking and carefully examining rocks for their pontential fossil content. Careful attention is necessary to avoid fossil damage.  Teachers will learn to use an autolevel for determining the percise location of each specimens and participate in the following activities: quarry mapping , interetation of features in the surrounding rock, preparing plaster jackets for protection and safe removal of fossils from the quarry.


The field camp includes outhouses and a camp trailer for cooking, water is hauled from Choteau. Showers are available once a week on "town day", although swimming in the Teton River is an option on hot days. All meals are provided.  Participants should furnish their own transportation, tent, sleeping bag,  ground pad or cot, and water bottles,as well as personal items. Car pooling is an option.


Teachers will develop a lesson plan, based on their research experience, and submit these plans to other teachers in the project for critique. Final revisions will be submitted to the paleontologists by September 15.


A stipend of $1200 will be paid in two installments, with the second payment following submission and acceptance of the final lesson plan. In addition, the grant pays for 2 teachers a year to present these lesson plans at professional meetings.