Missouri S&T dinosaur-hunting student finds second triceratops

Posted by
On April 9, 2024

Emma Puetz prepares a triceratops fossil she discovered in 2022. Photo by Michael Pierce/Missouri S&T.

Emma Puetz prepares a triceratops fossil she discovered in 2022. Photo by Michael Pierce/Missouri S&T.

What is even better than a student from Missouri S&T finding the remains of one dinosaur? Finding the remains of two. 

Emma Puetz, a master’s student in geology and geophysics from Rolla, Missouri, has now twice found triceratops fossils in Montana’s rocky terrain. And both times, she found the dinosaurs in the same fashion.  

“In the summer of 2022, as part of the PaleoX Adventure 360 field school, I found a triceratops frill on the last day and within the final 30 minutes of my hunt,” she says. “This past summer, the exact same thing happened. I came back with a group to dig the first frill, and then we had a couple days to do more hunting. Again, right before I was out of time, I found a completely new site with even more bones exposed.” 

Dr. Francisca Oboh-Ikuenobe hugs Puetz as she brushes her triceratops fossil. Photo by Michael Pierce/Missouri S&T.

In 2022, Puetz was newer to the concept of dinosaur hunting, but when she came back to excavate her first find, she had significantly more dinosaur-bone-identifying experience under her belt. 

“The first frill I found, I put a piece of it to my tongue to see if it would stick since that would indicate it was a bone,” she says. “This time, it was a large enough find that it wasn’t necessary. Plus, I had already spent the summer up until that point working as a field intern at the Montana Dinosaur Center and assisting with daily dig programs.” 

Having the naming rights for both dinosaurs, Puetz settled on the name “Joe Miner,” after her alma mater’s mascot, for her first triceratops, and the second dinosaur is named “Dave,” after her dinosaur-buff grandfather, Dave Lamb. 

Puetz says she has been interested in finding fossils for most of her life, but it was a trip to the Badlands National Park in South Dakota when she was 12 that first inspired her to pursue paleontology professionally.  

“There was a park ranger who was so engaging, and she explained everything in a way that made me so excited to learn more,” she says. “I remember thinking about the different pre-historic animals that would have been walking around in these areas, and I just fell in love with the field. There is so much that we can learn from bones.” 

Since then, her interest in paleontology has never waned, and as a student at S&T, she has studied the brain cavity and sensory functions of the Maiasaura peeblesorum dinosaur from the Late Cretaceous period.  

Puetz finished her bachelor’s degree from S&T in December 2023 while also taking graduate courses, and she will complete her master’s degree in May.  

Throughout her studies, she says Dr. Francisca Oboh-Ikuenobe, associate dean for academic affairs for S&T’s College of Engineering and Computing, has been a close mentor and source of inspiration for her. 

“I have known Dr. Oboh-Ikuenobe for most of my life, and she has been an amazing role model and made a positive difference throughout my academic journey,” she says. “Being a student at S&T and having such top-tier professors has helped me develop a great foundation to do so many cool things related to geology and paleontology.” 

Puetz’s next academic stop will be Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, where she will be a Ph.D. student in functional anatomy and evolution and continue studying dinosaur brains. After earning her Ph.D., Puetz says she isn’t positive what her future will hold, but she is certain it will involve the outdoors and more hands-on work. 

“Paleontology fits perfectly with my lifestyle,” she says. “I get to work outside and learn about fascinating animals from tens to hundreds of millions of years in the past.” 

For more information about Missouri S&T’s geology and geophysics programs, visit ggpe.mst.edu.

About Missouri S&T

Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) is a STEM-focused research university of over 7,000 students located in Rolla, Missouri. Part of the four-campus University of Missouri System, Missouri S&T offers over 100 degrees in 40 areas of study and is among the nation’s top public universities for salary impact, according to the Wall Street Journal. For more information about Missouri S&T, visit www.mst.edu

Share this page

Posted by

On April 9, 2024.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *