Josh Malone is a recent graduate of Augustana College, where he earned a B.A. in Theatre as well as minors in Geology and Art. Burpee Museum has been fortunate to have Josh participate in its expedition programs since 2007. Josh has also volunteered with the museum during PaleoFest and many other events over the past seven years. This was Josh’s first visit to the Hanksville-Burpee Dinosaur Quarry in Hanksville, Utah.
There really is nothing like it. Sitting in the dry dust, staring back at something that hasn’t seen the light of day in over 147 million years. It is something that few people get to experience in their life time. Fortunately for me the Burpee Museum provided me with an opportunity to have that kind experience, multiple times.
Finding out about Burpee Museum in ’05 was literally one of the best things that could have ever happened to me. I was a teenager in love with dinosaurs. I had been in love with dinosaurs since I was two years old and saw Jurassic Park when it was in theatres. These giant beasts fascinated me and I was only two years away from starting high school and six years away from college. I knew… or thought I knew for sure what I wanted to do. Then storms in Jane. My uncle and aunt in Rockford told me about Jane and would send me newspaper clippings of this amazing find. I had to see her for myself and when I finally did, like most others, I was in awe of her. But it wasn’t just Jane I was fascinated with. Where had the Burpee Museum of Natural History been all my life? This small museum with this amazing natural history collection ranging from the Carboniferous to modern-day biology. It had everything. And there, sitting disguised as a simple flyer at the front desk was a key to a big part of my future. A flyer that was promoting the museum’s summer expedition to Montana’s Hell Creek formation, where they had found Jane. I knew, there and then, that I would be going on one of Burpee’s expeditions.
Over the next year I worked for various farmers around my hometown of Kempton, IL so that I could save up enough money to go on this trip and in 2007 I went on my first dig with the Burpee in Montana. It was an experience I will never forget. Not only did I find some amazing things and work with an awesome team (shout out to Jim Holstein, and Erin Fitzgerald, Joanne, and my cousin Mark) I got to work with Dr. Thomas Carr and got to meet Dr. Jack Horner. It was a dream come true. I was told that I had an experience that even many vets weren’t lucky enough to have.
For the next few years I came out to the Hell Creek with Burpee on the odd numbered years (so ’07, ’09, ’11, and ’13.) Each time offered a different experience- all of them good. Even those gusty cold winds in early August while the sun hides behind the clouds and you stand atop a high ridge. I cherish those days because it is all experience gained. An important thing to note, that I feel a lot of people don’t realize, is that field work isn’t always easy and nice. The weather can suck a lot of the time and you can go days without finding anything. Then there is Scott with his blowhorn at 7 am. There are bad times. But I loved those moments because it just added to the well roundedness of the experience that the Burpee offers. Those experiences also humble you and make you realize just how much these professionals go through every season, all season.
But with the bad there has also been so much good. Over the past several years I have made so many connections, and worked with so many amazing and influential people. Honestly, when I was eight years old watching Walking With Dinosaurs I would have never imagined that I would someday be laying next to Thomas Holtz or Jim Kirkland with my face in the sand looking for dinosaurs. Yet here I am, having those exact experiences. I would randomly look over and have to suppress the urge to have a mini freakout moment. I needed to remain professional… but you know what? I can have my moment now. THIS IS AWESOME. I’ve worked with Holtz, Kirkland, Carr, Goodwin, and so many others! I’ve interviewed them all at PaleoFest or at other conferences I’ve gone to with the Burpee. I’ve sat next to giants in the paleo-community and had conversations, found bones, and yes- even thrown back a beer or two with them. The Burpee offers that opportunity.
One of the things I wanted… no, needed to do, before I graduated was come out to the Hanksville-Burpee site in Utah. Mainly because of my wishfullness to uncover a stegosaur. But also so that I will have had that “other” experience with the Burpee before my adult life starts after college. The opportunity arose for me to go to Utah the week after graduation, which in my book still counts because I don’t have a job yet and I haven’t moved far away. So, I latched on to the opportunity to essentially intern under Scott and Katie for the Burpee at the Utah site. And it has been every bit the experience I hoped it would be. No… I didn’t find my stegosaur. But we have several sauropods, some Allosaurus and Ceratosaur material, and an ankylosaur!? I mean, honestly we have some of the best stuff ever here at this site, and I can officially say “Hey, I have been there. I was a part of that team!”
It has all been very humbling. The past several years my relationship with the Burpee has helped me grow as a student an as a person. No matter my interest or area of study the Burpee with their different types of programming was always there to support and help me in any way they could. Scott, Katie, Josh, Hillary, Maureen, and so many others at the museum who encouraged and facilitated my growth as an individual. I would not be the person I am today without the experiences the Burpee has offered.
There are times in your life… well, in my life at least, where everything seems perfect. Like where I am at is where I am supposed to be at that moment, and that I am on that right path. Trust me when I say that this past year has been missing a lot of those moments. As a senior at Augustana College in Rock Island, IL this past year I have never felt more unsure of myself and where my future is going to take me. I have my BA in Theatre and ADs in Geology and Art. I have no clue where I will be a few weeks from now to be honest, let alone next year. But coming out to the Hanksville-Burpee site in Utah this summer, on my fifth expedition with the Burpee crew, has given me that feeling I’m supposed to be here, at this moment. It’s a blessing.