Honors Senior Theses/Projects

Date of Award

Fall 2021

Exit Requirement

Undergraduate Honors Thesis/Project

Department

Honors Program

Faculty Advisor

Drs. Amy Harwell and Gareth Hopkins

Honors Program Director

Dr. Gavin Keulks

Abstract

Dinosaurs are awesome. They hold a special place in everyone’s childhood, and new discoveries in what they looked like and how they lived and might have behaved are exciting news. It’s more common to come across an article unveiling a new fossil as opposed to novel breakthroughs in understanding the paleobiology of these organisms. Although discoveries in the research field are less widespread than field discoveries and new dig sites, even though the datapool of fossils grows every year, new advances in technology allow for new analytical methods to study these fossils. Researchers are now able to test a wider range of more specific hypotheses. Scientific understanding of dinosaurs and how they lived has not progressed as rapidly as would be expected in the new digital age given the abundance of fossils to study. Paleontology is commonly thought of as digging in the field, piecing bones together in a museum, and analyzing morphological characteristics of bones to describe new species. With the new digital age and the development of many distinctions within helpful fields, such as histology, how people think about paleontology and the ways it’s explored can be expanded from just dig sites to include the laboratory setting where even more discoveries happen. Within the professional world of paleontology, there is a lot of discourse over how the field is changing, integrating new technologies, and adapting to be more efficient to researchers in the future. However, amateurs may not be aware of this discussion. My project is designed to investigate what the modern paleontologist does, articulate obstacles the field currently faces, address the plausible solutions that are being, or can 4 be, integrated into the field, and finally to create an online resource for aspiring paleontologists.

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