Digging it Geologist uncovers life’s work



By Alexis Miano

Jacqueline Wood is a geologist at Delgado who specializes in Vertebrae Paleontology.  This is a  field of science she has had a passion for since she was five and never quite grew out of it. Wood says her field of work is important in understanding human’s position in the evolution of time. It also gives us a deep understanding of the earth and how it has changed over the last 4.6 billion years and we can see where we fit in as humans. According to Jacqueline “in understanding where we fit in, we have to understand previous animals as well.”

Wood has dug in North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana. Wood states “ a majority of bones I find come from Montana.” College is where Jacqueline discovered one of her most interesting finds, a Brachiosaurus, which  was about 140 feet long.  When digging out the shoulder blade of the Brachiosaurus, which was bigger than her, Jacqueline said “to watch this animal get uncovered and being the first person ever in human history to see it is the coolest part about my job.”

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She went on to say that it “never gets old.” Wood has actually been lucky enough to find a new species on one of her digs, although it was a “mere mammal,” she states it was the first of its kind. When she was back in college her and her classmates would sift through dirt to find microfossils.20141023_104100 She found one of the most complete jaws of a mammal ever from the Morrison.

In order to find these hidden treasures Jacquelines geological knowledge comes into play.  By using geologic maps to see what ages the rocks are with an understanding of what layers get deposited and folded you can tell what layers will be at the surface. She says that you want to go where Jurassic or cretaceous rock is sitting at the surface.

To determine the species Wood uses geology along with specific formations in order to see which organisms lived in particular periods of time. Then she places the bones together by using her knowledge on anatomy, where she has to know how to put a skeleton together and compare it to different dinosaurs.20141023_104231

Jacqueline does a lot of her research in North Dakota where they try to determine the extinction of dinosaurs.  Wood says that in the K/T boundary, a boundary between dinosaurs and mammals, she can see the asteroid impact layer. The current research that she’s doing is finding  what happened right before and after the dinosaur extinction event. There is no doubt, in her research, that an asteroid caused the extinction.

Jacqueline states that she doesn’t get paid very much for her work or findings. Her line of work is more for the glory. Although the studies of dinosaur’s started as just a playful phase in her childhood, as an adult she uncovers more than bones, Wood is unveiling evolution itself.


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