Prehistoric museum welcomes paleontologist to CEU


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Posted Thursday, October 9, 2003 - 12:00am

Many little boys grow up dreaming of being able to dig up dinosaurs. The College of Eastern Utah's newest faculty member, Reese Barrick, is living out that dream

Barrick received his master's and doctorate degrees in the geological sciences from the University of Southern California, which is considered one of the top three colleges for geology in the nation. He then began work at North Carolina State where he taught, did research, and developed curricula.

Cliff Coppersmith, vice-president of academics, said Barrick comes to CEU with a solid record and will be able to do a diverse number of things. He will be teaching two classes at the college next semester, working at the museum, and supervising CEU's more than 40 quarries, along with doing his own research.

Coppersmith said, "He represents the kind of faculty we want to have at CEU. He's a great guy."

Barrick said what brought him to CEU was, "the opportunity to work in the museum and live and work where there are dinosaurs outside your backdoor and working in a museum environment as well as being able to teach.

"In North Carolina there aren't dinosaurs out your backdoor and you get caught up in a lot of big department administrative kinds of things which takes away the time from doing the things that you really like. Plus just the opportunity to be in the field digging dinosaurs and hiking around as opposed to being in a laboratory all the time."

Coppersmith said that the college has been trying to get someone here for two years. The person that they initially hired from Canada had health problems and wasn't able to make it down.

So, a few weeks ago they called Barrick. "From the time they called and offered me the job, we turned around and were in a moving truck within about six days. So far it's worked out pretty well," quipped Barrick.

He continued, "As we were driving in, I was preparing my wife for desert because she's not really ever lived in desert before and so she was getting a little paranoid driving from Grand Junction into here because you go through this seriously desolate desert. So then when we came over the hill and down into Price and you could see green in trees and things, she was definitely relieved."

Because Barrick won't be teaching this semester, he said, "I've set up an office at the college, but I've spent more time over here [at the museum] trying to get familiar with the people and the things that go on and I'm starting to get more comfortable.

"I'm trying to familiarize myself with the surrounding area for teaching purposes as well as learning all of the different areas and quarries where the museum is already working on dinosaurs. It's a beautiful area. We've spent quite a bit of time outdoors just driving around."

His official title is curator of paleontology, which means he will be running CEU's Museum.

He said, "For the size of the museum, it's pretty spectacular. The thing that is really exciting about it to me is that there is a potential for it to be so much more. When you look at the history of where it started to where it's gone today, from an upper part of a gymnasium or in a basement with a couple or three bones to where it is now, it's truly amazing. To envision that kind of growth over the next 15 years or so it's exciting.

"If nothing else, I think the museum is a really wonderful resource for the community, but it's also a wonderful resource for students. Everyone should come down and spend a little time and check out what other activities the museum has going on that they can get involved in."

In the next year Barrick plans to be busy as he wants to work on permits for new dinosaur digs, decide what research he wants to work on first, submit research grants to the National Science Foundation, let his "colleagues from around the country know that there are some really great research projects in fossils that need to be studied in this area, so we can get more scientists and graduate students that are looking for research projects and bring them into this area."

Barrick came to CEU with his wife, Michelle, and their three-year-old daughter Haley. He said, "One thing that has really impressed me is that people are really nice and they've been very helpful. The president [Ryan Thomas] has been an extremely welcoming guy, but you know, I've found that the students have been very welcoming too. Even just the people we meet in town like store owners and other people were all a warm group.

"We've even been down to hear the wind symphony in town and I took my daughter to a Carbon High football game and she loved that because blue is one of her favorite colors and it's always cool to be in a town where the high school's mascot is called the dinos when you are a dinosaur paleontologist."

Coppersmith is thrilled at the various positive qualities Barrick brings to the table. He will work on exhibits, development, and community outreach at the museum, but he will also be out in the quarries along with teaching classes at the college.

Barrick is excited to start teaching, but because of his late arrival, he won't teach until next semester. He will teach two classes – historical geology and pre-historical life.

"I've been trying to get out into the field just to learn the areas because I'd like to be able to take my classes on a number of field trips, even if they're just short ones that take ten minutes to get to and you can do in a class period," said Barrick.

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