Paleontologist digs deep for dinosaurs in Oklahoma and elsewhere

Paul Sereno does not know exactly what Oklahoma looked like 120 million years ago, but the University of Chicago paleontologist has more than an educated guess, thanks to a giant carnivorous dinosaur called acrocanthosaurus that was found near Atoka.
BY GEORGE LANG glang@opubco.com Modified: February 4, 2013 at 9:41 am •  Published: February 4, 2013

And somehow, he learned to love it.

“This is one of the greatest exercise and diet programs in the world,” he said of his digs in the Sahara. “Every time I come back, I feel like a million bucks.”

These are the kind of stories that fascinate young people who attend Sereno's presentations, and since 1999, Sereno has made education a cornerstone of his work. He is a co-founder of Project Exploration, a Chicago-based organization that reaches out to segments of the student population that are traditionally underexposed to science. Sereno said he struggled as a high school student and barely got into Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Ill., but education was important to the Sereno family — all six siblings earned doctorate degrees — and Paul Sereno's attitude was dramatically changed when he discovered the possibilities for adventure in science.

So now Sereno is working to bring new, fresh minds to his profession, and whenever he visits the Jasmine Moran Children's Museum or the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History in Norman, he hopes he is speaking to some future explorers. And, he said, there has never been a better time to be a paleontologist.

“We are finding more dinosaurs today — this year — than we've ever found before,” he said. “It's a renaissance. The world, as small as it's getting with all the digital resources we have, is still the most unexplored place you could imagine. I have been in places in the Sahara where no human has set foot.”

Sereno knows this, he said, because the SuperCroc remains he found in 1997 and 2000 were practically sitting on the surface of the sand. And because of the high concentration of dinosaur fossils in Oklahoma, it's not uncommon for people to find an important artifact, possibly part of an acrocanthosaurus, on their own land.

“People in the southwest and southeastern corners of Oklahoma are finding things on their ranches and they are bringing them in, and they realize what they are now,” Sereno said. “It's not a fossilized log. It's a bone.”



We are finding more dinosaurs today — this year — than we've ever found before. It's a renaissance. The world, as small as it's getting with all the digital resources we have, is still the most unexplored place you could imagine. I have been in places in the Sahara where no human has set foot.”

Paul Sereno,
Paleontologist

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