An avid Jurassic Park fan growing up, Kate Krsnak ’13 received the opportunity of a lifetime when she participated in a paleontology field camp in Montana earlier this summer. There, Krsnak unearthed fossils, gained a greater understanding of methods — and landed a fall internship with the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University in Philadelphia.
Through the program, based out of Yellowstone Bighorn Research Association (YBRA), Krsnak spent July working with paleontologists and students to extract fossils along the border of Montana and Wyoming. The camp was run by David Parris, curator and Jason Schein, assistant curator of the New Jersey State Museum and strongly assisted by Jason Poole, manager of the Fossil Prep Lab at the Academy of Natural Sciences.
Krsnak, a Secondary Education and Geosciences double major, explained that depending on the location of the fossils, the team used different extraction methods, including surface collecting, quarrying a pit, using a rock saw or applying a plaster jacket.
“We spent our days in the field and our nights in the classroom back at YBRA looking over the fossils we collected, cleaning them a bit, applying glue where we could, and properly labeling them, as well as working with mapping, learning about the geology, and learning about the bones and dinosaurs,” she said.
The team, which also included students from Boston University, Auburn University and Rutgers University, discovered Myledaphus bipartus teeth (Creataceous age sting-ray); Trionyx (ancient soft-shelled fresh water turtle); Troödontid tooth (a carnivorous dinosaur); Ankylosaur Skull and bones; Triceratops rib fragments, frill, and vertebrae; Thescelosaur toe bone; ancient crocodile teeth and scutes; petrified wood; and gastropods. The fossils are being transported to the New Jersey State Museum to be processed and, later, to the Academy of Natural Sciences.
This fall, Krsnak will assist preparing the fossils in the Fossil Prep Lab at the Academy of Natural of Sciences. Poole, impressed by Krsnak’s willingness to work late in the class and interest in the subject, offered her the internship at the end of the field camp. Back at Rider, Krsnak will conduct an independent research project with Dr. William Gallagher that extends from the internship. In the spring, she will student-teach 8th grade in the West Windsor-Plainsboro District at Grover Middle School.
It was Gallagher who had encouraged her to apply for the field camp in Montana. Krsnak said she felt well prepared for the experience because of the skills she gained in his classes, which included trips to a marl pit in Gloucester County, N.J.
“Dr. Gallagher has always stressed the importance of the proper way of collecting and labeling fossils,” she said. “He always had us bring old medicine pill bottles, paper towels, resealable plastic bags. I had a bunch of those in Montana that other students borrowed.”
Though Krsnak has a passion for teaching, she is also considering going to graduate school to study paleontology.
“To have a full week in the field was really valuable. It’s a lot of hard work,” Krsnak said. “I just think it’s amazing the things you can learn about creatures that lived millions of ago just from looking at their remains. There’s so much we can learn about them.”
All Geosciences students at Rider University attend a senior-level geology field camp where they learn fundamental field and mapping skills, and how to professionally apply and integrate what they have learned in their individual courses to complex, real-world geologic problems. Nicholas Mazza ’13 is participating in a geology field camp in the Catskill Mountains of New York State. Sarah Mozes ’14 and Hilary Boff ’14 are studying volcanoes in Iceland. Jillian Baumann ’14 is studying volcanoes in Kamchatka, Russia.