DANVILLE, KY -- Angela Horner, a Centre College senior from Springfield, Ohio, has given new meaning to the term "spring cleaning." Horner currently is helping clean and prepare fossilized dinosaur bones for display in the college's natural history museum.
She completed a six-week independent study with the bones during the winter term and is continuing her work this spring to finish a set of hadrosaur bones for the museum. The hadrosaur was a duck-billed dinosaur that stood 25 to 30 feet tall as an adult.
A biology major with an avid interest in paleontology, Horner worked under the supervision of Jack Hankla, a Danville dentist who has one of the nation's premier private collections of dinosaur bones. Horner even had the chance to join Hankla on camera when a crew from the CBS Evening News arrived to tape his opinions about a recent controversy involving dinosaur bones on government land in the American West.
Horner says with a laugh, "I didn't say a word on camera. I was the person in the background gently cleaning a fossil." The segment aired Feb. 10.
During her independent study, Horner learned how much work it takes to get fossils to a clean condition suitable for display. "These are very, very old bones that have spent millions of years in sand and rock," she explains. "You have to use a small razor blade to scrape away rock without damaging the bone. I also used brushes and scalpels."
Horner says she was surprised to realize how fragile the bones were in their fossilized state. "It made a big impression on me that a single bone for a Tyrannosaurus rex exhibit could take 60 hours of preparation to get it to museum-quality condition."
Given her experiences, Horner and Hankla came up with an intriguing idea for the Centre museum. "We've decided to set aside one bone -- a femur (leg bone) from the hadrosaur -- and use it to show the process of fossil preparation," Horner says. "One section of the bone will be in the original, uncleaned condition, a second section will be partially cleaned and a final section will be fully prepared. I think that will be a great way to show the progression of work on fossils."
In addition to her hands-on work, Horner was written a paper about how paleontologists piece together clues from fossils and their surroundings to develop theories about how now-extinct animals may have lived and died.
Horner's experience has fueled her interest in paleontology as well as what she calls "a general interest in bones." She's an avid sports enthusiast who has broken her wrist three times and her elbow once in escapades snowboarding, roller blading and playing football. "I've come to appreciate bones and might even consider a career in some area of forensics," she says. For now Horner says she will look for an intern or apprentice position following graduation, with plans for graduate school in one or two years.
Horner is a 1996 graduate of Catholic Central High School, and her parents are Carol and John Horner.
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