Volunteers of all ages help researchers unpack fossils

Local News

Dinosaur lovers of all ages had a chance to get involved with important research happening at Virginia Tech.

After traveling to the western United States, Tanzania and Zimbabwe, researchers brought back dozens of newly-discovered dinosaur bones. Kids and adults had a chance Thursday to help researchers unpack their findings and sort them to be studied.

“I’ve unwrapped a tooth that’s like, I don’t know, maybe like, six million something years old,” said third grader Donovan Barlow.

Donovan collects rocks but hasn’t had as much experience with fossils. As a fan of dinosaurs, he was one the people helping Virginia Tech researchers unwrap bones discovered on recent trips.

“I think it’s pretty cool that you can just dig in some random place and find a dinosaur,” Donovan said.

“One of the best parts about paleontology is that discovery that we get to do,” said Michelle Stocker, assistant professor of paleobiology at Virginia Tech. “So being able to share that aspect with everybody is just amazing.”

Stocker and her team of researchers traveled to Tanzania, Zimbabwe and the western United States to collect fossils – some of them up to 240 million years old, she said. Her team’s research has helped them learn more about dinosaurs’ anatomy and their growth, she added.

“As they’re unwrapping something, we might see something that we hadn’t noticed before,” Stocker said. “We didn’t unwrap almost any of this stuff. We just brought it home and then saved it for today. So getting to see all of that material again since we saw it in the field is fabulous.”

Next, researchers will clean the rock off of the bones to start studying them, Stocker said.

Nearly twice the number of people turned out to unwrap fossils Thursday night event compared to the first event in 2015, she added.

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