A foreign interest

Jasper Ponstein (left) brushes back rock looking for fossils deposited by a 65 million-year-old ecosystem.
By: 
Ethan Brogan

The availability of dinosaur digs in Europe is not as prevalent as it is in America, so having easy access to a dig known to house history from 65 million years ago is what attracted Jasper Ponstein to join the Glenrock Paleontological Museum this summer.

When Ponstein was a child growing up in west Amsterdam, he had a fascination with dinosaurs. As he grew older, the idea of digging in the dirt for old bones seemed an afterthought, but a friend reignited his interest during his second year at Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam.

“At that time I didn’t know what direction I was going,” Ponstein said, but he shifted his studies toward earth science, eventually earning a bachelor’s degree.

Then, he set his sights a bit higher, earning a master’s degree in paleobiology from Uppsala University in Sweden. During\ time off school, Ponstein volunteered at the Hague, a hub of museums and art in the Netherlands, giving guided tours and working in the lab on fossils.

Even though Ponstein was finally working on fossils, he still felt he was missing some of the core experiences of being a paleontologist. When he got the chance to study abroad at the Morrison Natural History Museum in Colorado last year, he jumped at the opportunity.

After returning to Europe to complete his studies, Ponstein heard about digs planned in Glenrock. He was asked to join and gleefully accepted. The collaboration between Glenrock’s Paleon and the Morrison
allowed him to live out his dreams.

Ponstein spent July 17-21 out on digs, testing his knowledge and familiarizing himself with the process of digging to the past.

“Every step you take teaches you something new about the environment,” he said. “It’s a never-ending story.”

He became enamored with the paleon, citing what he believes is important localized paleontology.

“When you go to a big museum, like the Smithsonian, you see fossils from all over,” he said.

“Here, it’s different.”

Seeing the exhibit in the Paleon makes Ponstein feel more prepared for his future goals. He wants to get his doctorate in paleobiology at Bloemfontein in South Africa’s Free State.

Bloemfontein is a major site of the Jurassic Boundary, a period marking one of the largest mass extinctions during the Triassic-Jurassic period.

His time spent here has brought him even more of a love for his career. “I live to dig,” he said. “I want to be out there in the rocks.”

The Paleon has been a topic of discussion at Glenrock Town Council recently as the lease for the Lincoln Building, which houses it, needs to be rewritten. A public work session is scheduled for 6 p.m. Aug. 1 in the town hall to work out the lease agreement.

Category:

Glenrock Independent

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207 S 4th, Glenrock, WY 82637

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Phone: (307) 436-2211

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