College offering paleontology field classes

Mesalands Community College will be offering three field classes in paleontology this summer on June 11-15, June 25-29 and July 9-13. Officially listed by the College as GEOL 120 Paleontology Field Discovery (4 credit hours), the class provides a week-long experience of excavating fossils and processing them in the Mesalands Dinosaur Museum.

Students in this class will search for and learn to excavate dinosaur-age vertebrates in the Quay County area. Basic laboratory methods will be studied in the natural science laboratories at the Dinosaur Museum. Students will also learn about the local rocks and age determination, and will study the major groups of fossil vertebrates found in this area, including dinosaurs and dinosaur tracks.

"Very few people have the opportunity to excavate fossils. For many people, including myself, it's amazing to find something after 200 million years. You simply have to experience it for yourself to understand," Axel Hungerbuehler, Natural Sciences/Museum Curator at Mesalands Community College, said.

In the past five years, field classes have recovered numerous fossils at six sites in the Quay County area. Approximately 1,400 skeletal elements have been recovered, including two skulls and a plethora of bones of the crocodile-like phytosaur Redondasaurus. Limb bones from a new form of a large, heavily armored aetosaur have also been recovered during summer field classes.

"A field class earlier this month was extraordinarily successful," Hungerbuehler said. "For the lack of time, we had to leave several specimens in the ground for upcoming field classes to recover, and I am absolutely certain that more are still waiting to be uncovered."

The cost of each field class is $650. A non-refundable deposit of $100 is required at the time of registration. This cost includes tuition and fees, the use of tools and field materials, transportation to and from the excavation site, sack lunches, water and soft drinks for all five days, an ice breaker party, barbecue dinner, and a specially designed T-shirt. The fee does not include travel to Tucumcari, or additional accommodations and meals.

For more information, contact Hungerbuehler at 461-4413, ext. 252.

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