Hard work given a name

(Edmonton) The discovery of a new species of dinosaur by an American-based researcher has a very important connection to the University of Alberta. The fossilized remains of a smallish 91-kilogram horned dinosaur originally found by U of A paleontologist Phil Currie has now been named in honour of fellow U of A researcher Eva Koppelhus, who happens to be Currie’s wife.

Michael Ryan, a researcher from the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, takes credit for discovering that the bones, first spotted by Currie in Alberta’s Dinosaur Provincial Park in 1995, are a distinct species of plant-eating dinosaur. Ryan, a former grad student of Currie’s, named the beast after Koppelhus, a U of A palynologist. The formal name of the newly appointed species is Unescopceratops koppelhusae.

“It was nice to be recognized for my work on many dinosaur digs over the years,” said Koppelhus. In addition to her work in palynology—the study of dinosaur-age plant life and organic matter—Koppelhus has co-ordinated the logistics for dozens of dinosaur research expeditions. “I’ve made all the arrangements needed for fieldwork to get off the ground,” said Koppelhus, adding that the job description includes budgeting, finding accommodations, hiring crews and sometimes even shopping for groceries.

Currie says he spotted the jawbone of what is now Unescopceratops koppelhusae when he was walking in Dinosaur Provincial Park in the fall of 1995. The 75-million-year-old fossils were put in the Tyrrell Museum collection in Drumheller. Currie suggested that Ryan, who was his paleontology student at the time, take a closer look at the bones.

The researchers are sure that their find is a previously unidentified species, but Koppelhus hopes more fossils of her namesake dinosaur are found. “The more fossils of this species that are dug up will guarantee these findings will stand the test of time.”