UMSL students Rebecca Thorn (left) and Michelle Hrastich

UMSL students Rebecca Thorn (left) and Michelle Hrastich discovered a triceratops skull this summer at a dig in Jordan, Mont. (Click on the photo to see more of the triceratops skull.)

Unearthing dinosaur bones is something mostly seen on television or read about in books. But for two University of Missouri–St. Louis students, it was their summer.

Michelle Hrastich, a student pursuing a master’s degree in education administration, and Rebecca Thorn, a graduate student in museum studies, traveled to Jordan, Mont., this summer as part of the St. Louis Science Center’s annual PaleoTrek.

While digging one day, Hrastich and Thorn decided to split off from the group. They stumbled upon some small piles of fossil fragments. Hrastich spotted a jawbone which eventually led to the thrilling discovery of a full triceratops skull, which dated back to the late Cretaceous Period. They named the skull “Karma.”

“Usually if you find a big bone, it ends relatively quickly, and there aren’t any nearby to speak of,” Hrastich said. “This was not the case with Karma. We dug for a total of about 12 hours over the next couple of days. What we uncovered was amazing.”

The discovery is the most complete skull that the St. Louis Science Center has ever found. After finding the specimen, the group uncovered two eyebrow horns, a beak, both sides of the jaw with teeth, the occipital condyle (first vertebrae on the neck that attaches the skull and spinal cord), and a huge amount of frill (shield on the back of the head).

“When we left that Friday, we were able to successfully wrap and remove one side of the jaw, the beak and one horn. The rest had to stay,” Hrastich said. “We will go back again next year to continue working on her. I don’t know how likely it is, but we could have more than just a skull. Karma is in really good shape and doesn’t seem to be overly tossed around by nature.”

Media Coverage:
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Jen Hatton

Jen Hatton