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Interview with Paleontologist Andy Farke

Paleontologist Andy Farke

Area of Focus: Vertebrate paleontology, especially the Cretaceous of western North America

Institution: Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology at The Webb Schools

1. How did you become interested in Paleontology?

When I was four years old, my parents took me to Dinosaur Park in Rapid City. I was amazed by these giant creatures that used to live in South Dakota--and I also had a lot of fun with the pack of plastic dinosaurs we bought at the gift shop there.



2. Explain the aspect of Paleontology that you focus on.

As a researcher, I focus on the terrestrial Late Cretaceous environments of western North America. I'm really interested in how these ecosystems with giant tyrannosaurs, duckbilled dinosaurs, and horned dinosaurs functioned, and how they varied through time and from location to location. Basically, what lived when and where?



3. What do you do in the course of a day as a Paleontologist?

Every day is different--I split my time between teaching (my museum is on a high school campus), mentoring students, working on my own research, and working with fellow museum staff. I also do some editing for scientific journals, and a ton of other random tasks.



4. What was your favorite discovery or field experience?

Many years ago as a graduate student with the Stony Brook University / University of Antananarivo expeditions in northwestern Madagascar, I found the braincase of a sauropod dinosaur. It was just sitting out there on the surface; after I collected it, it was prepped out and designated the holotype for the dinosaur Vahiny. Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to find a type specimen, so it was really cool to live out that dream.



5. Is there anything else you want to say about being a Paleontologist?

I am privileged to be in a museum position where I get to teach, do research, and interact with the public. Probably the most fun part of the job is when I meet a visitor to our exhibits who is super passionate about paleontology, but maybe hasn't encountered a "real" paleontologist in person before. I value the opportunity to be an ambassador for our field!


Andy Farke at Dinosaur Park in Rapid City, SD.  This is where Andy, as a child, first became interested in dinosaurs!

Andy Farke taking a selfie at Dinosaur Park in Rapid City, SD. This is where Andy, as a child, first became interested in dinosaurs!



Andy Farke holding the skull of one of his dinosaur discoveries, Aquilops americanus. Aquilops is one of the earliest horned dinosaurs from North America.

Andy Farke holding the skull of one of his dinosaur discoveries, Aquilops americanus. Aquilops is one of the earliest horned dinosaurs from North America. This specimen is at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History.



Andy Farke showing Lee Cone and I some megalodon teeth from Sharktooth Hill in the collections room of the Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology at The Webb Schools.

Andy Farke showing Lee Cone and I some megalodon teeth from Sharktooth Hill in the collections room of the Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology at The Webb Schools.



Andy Farke giving Lee Cone and I a behind the scenes tour at the Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology at The Webb Schools.

Andy Farke and I posing for a picture while he gives Lee Cone and I a behind the scenes tour at the Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology at The Webb Schools.






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