Kristi Rogers, students, seek to discover dinosaur roots

By Sophie Vogt

Assistant Professor of Geology Kristi Curry Rogers is ecstatic about a recent grant from the National Science Foundation, which will enable her to engage the Macalester community on a project entitled “The Evolutionary History of Titanosaurs.”
Uncovering the history of these long-necked, herbivorous dinosaurs may contribute to our understanding of the breakup of Pangea, as well as delve deeper into the knowledge of dinosaur life.

Beginning in September, Rogers will hire a student worker at the Science Museum of Minnesota for about 10 hours per week. Over the course of the project, 5-6 students will be involved and receive stipends for their work.
Because titanosaur bones are scattered around the world, student researchers will get the chance to travel to international dig sites such as Brazil, Romania and Madagascar. The research is also unique because one student may stick with the project and build their skills for up to three years of their college experience, creating publishable work and preparing for graduate school.
“The grant is really great because it does involve students in a very real way, which I think Macalester is good at doing anyways, but this is a new, kind of different opportunity—we’ve had students go to the field with us, but it’s on a one student, every few years basis,” said Rogers. “Also, a lot of the discovery that we make takes place in museums, and this is an opportunity for students to get a perspective on that.”

Rogers works full-time as the Curator of Paleontology at the Science Museum of Minnesota, where there are plenty of specimens to be studied. She also hopes to expose her Dinosaurs class to the project this fall.

“It takes 4 days to make a dinosaur bone soft, and at the science museum we have a whole collection of dinosaur bones, so I think we can do some experimental stuff, even on a larger class scale,” she said.
Another exciting development in the Geology Department was this month’s filming of both Kristi and her husband, Professor Ray Rogers, for the “Science Now” program on the PBS series NOVA.
The program focused on the biological significance of finding blood vessels in dinosaur fossils from Madagascar, and whether this means that dinosaur DNA can be preserved, as in the fictional classic Jurassic Park. The filming enabled the Rogers and their colleague Mary Switzer to collaborate on some work that might not otherwise have been done.
After 48 hours of filming, the segment will be reduced to 14 minutes, which will air sometime next spring. However, Rogers certainly doesn’t regret the experience.

“Ray had to have his nose powdered, so that made it all worthwhile,” she said.