Graduate student project hits front page

Montana Hodge's Graduate Student ProjectMontana Journalism graduate student, Montana Hodges, recently had her master's project, "Dinosaur Wars," published in the regional magazine High Country News and as the cover story in the alternative weekly, the Missoula Independent

Hodges came to Missoula as a graduate student with undergraduate degrees in journalism and geology. Her undergraduate paleontology courses spurred her interest in fossils for her master’s project.

“I had worked with paleontologists who had been convicted of stealing fossils off public lands, and I was interested in their stories,” Hodges said.

Through extensive research, she found a story focusing on rare dinosaur skeletons found in Jordan, Mont., by Clayton Phipps. Phipps, known as the "Dinosaur Cowboy," found two dinosaurs seemingly locked in battle. Scientists and museums have shunned the fossils because they were excavated by a private party and not scientists. The set of dueling dinosaurs, a ceratopsian and a theropod, was found in excellent condition.

“I was shocked – I had never seen anything like these dinosaurs. I was fascinated by that, and wanted to find out why they were sitting there and why no one was talking about them,” she said.

Hodges is pleased with the publications, but says the story is far from over. The dinosaur bones go up for auction in November 2013; she will attend the auction and report another story.

This summer, Hodges worked on fossil research on public lands in Alaska's Denali National Park. While there, she worked with paleontologists who were interested in the interdisciplinary aspect of her master’s project.

Hodges is now working on her PhD in paleontology at the University of Montana, extending her master's work and focusing particularly on national parks.

- posted 06/11/14 -