“It was so exciting … we just didn’t believe it,” David Schmidt, a geology and environmental science professor at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, said in a statement last week.
Schmidt led the group excavation, which usually finds just fragments of dinosaur bones in its annual digs, but this year was different.
The team was following up after alumni, students and Schmidt uncovered the tip of a triceratops horn last summer – which a local rancher had originally found poking out of the earth. Thinking it could become a significant excavation, Schmidt and the group decided to return to the dig this year after getting clearance from the National Forest Service.
|Researchers unearth triceratops skull in South Dakota(Westminster College)|
Although the coronavirus pandemic derailed plans and typical course credit could not be offered, students signed up for the excursion anyway.
“We were able to continue on a volunteer basis, camping safely outside the entire two months,” Schmidt said, adding that the group clocked in extra digging hours every day – out of excitement.
“They also just couldn’t wait to get out there each morning."
The students named the the 66-million-year-old fossil “Shady,” for community members of the nearby town of Shadehill, South Dakota.
"Pick axes, shovels, a random telehandler, a backhoe, and a flatbed truck at long last brought Shady to the Westminster campus, where it is resting in a secure location until funds can be raised for restoration," the college announced in its news release.
According to Westminster, additional bones will be dug up next summer in the South Dakota dirt. Schmidt is excited to return – for his students.
“The entire goal of this, at Westminster, is for students to use the fossil specimens for undergraduate research. So they have practical experiences and use learned skills in graduate school or in their career endeavors," he said.
Contributing: The Associated Press