UND’s Gerla Leads Mojave Expedition

With Joshua trees and the Kokoweef Peak in the background, Phil Gerla, UND associate professor of geology & geological engineering, explains geological structures and other aspects of the Mojave Desert to students Carlos Alba and Marie Bergelim. Gerla, who enjoys giving students experiences in the field, led a visit to the desert over Spring Break in March. Photo by Sidike Abudureyimu.

A group of UND geology & geological engineering students went retro for Spring Break this year — as in pre Ice Age.

As part of a school sponsored expedition to the Mojave Desert led by Phil Gerla, the students discovered rare dinosaur tracks from the Jurassic times. It was a highlight of a trip that made textbooks come alive.

“I felt like I was in a time machine,” said Sidike Abudureyimu, a graduate student in geological engineering from Turpan, western China, who discovered the tracks in a slab of sandstone. “I traveled back millions of years ago, and it felt awesome.”

“I put my thumbs in the dinosaur footprints,” said Emma Tschann, a senior in environmental geoscience from Zumbrota, Minn. “Once we found the first set of prints, more were easier to find. It was great. I loved it. I’ve loved dinosaurs since I was little. Seeing footprints that aren’t in a museum and imagining the conditions back then was pretty cool.”

The tracks were from Coelurosaurs, an unusual species of dinosaur from the Jurassic Era, said Phil Gerla, associate professor of geology and geological engineering, who led the trip. He added that they were between two and three feet tall and about the size of a small ostrich.

Read more about this trip of student discovery by clicking here.