FROM THE VICE PRESIDENT
THE FOSSIL TRAIL
Sidebar: New center lands big grant
WOMEN OF SCIENCE
SCIENTIST Q & A
Cover: UM paleontologist George Stanley holds a rhinoceros jaw fossil in the storage room of the University’s paleontology research collection. Found in Montana, the fossil is from the Miocene epoch, which extended from 23 million to 5.3 million years before the present.
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New center lands big grant
A new $1.3 million grant to UM will train middle school teachers and their students to better use the incredible natural classroom that is Eastern Montana — one of the world’s premier fossil-hunting grounds.
The three-year, National Science Foundation grant will fund the Paleo Exploration Project: Spatial Analysis of Fossil Finds in the Northern Plains. The effort will be a project of UM’s new Paleontology Center.
Heather Almquist, a faculty affiliate and associate researcher, says the project will train 60 middle school teachers from Eastern Montana. These math, science and technology instructors and their students will learn how to use geospatial technologies such as handheld global-positioning system units and ArcView Geographic Information System software.
“They will learn to use this data to do scientific inquiry,” Almquist says. “It’s a way of bringing technology into the classroom that enhances teaching and learning. We plan to use the excitement people have about fossils to make them think about various scientific concepts in new ways.”
Almquist prepared the grant request with George Stanley. He says the teachers and their students will venture outdoors to find fossil locations and learn how to transfer that data onto topographic or geologic maps. Middle school classes also will develop their own research projects.
“We’ll have ideas for them, but they will select their own research projects,” Stanley says. “They may want to talk about the mass extinction of the dinosaurs, or turtles or plesiosaurs and other swimming marine reptiles. The idea is they experience scientific research for themselves firsthand.”
his students will teach teachers and students to find fossil material,
collect it, take it back to the lab, prep it and catalog it. UM students
also will assist in conducting summer field institutes at Fort Peck.