Project Profile

Paleo Exploration Project: Spatial Analysis of Fossil Finds in the Northern Plains


The Paleo Exploration Project has provided training in paleontology and geospatial analysis to 52 K-12 math, science, and technology teachers and over 80 middle school students from rural eastern Montana, an area that includes five of the state’s seven Indian reservations. Through a series of two-day weekend workshops, participating teachers learned about Montana's geologic history and fossil record, and were trained in the use sophisticated geospatial technologies to plan and conduct field-based geological investigations. During week-long summer research institutes they explored some of the richest late Cretaceous fossil beds on Earth lying virtually in their own backyards. The institutes proved particularly inspiring to participating students, who, working side-by-side with teachers and University of Montana graduate students and faculty, discovered an array of dinosaur, mammal, marine invertebrate, and plant fossils. Following the institutes, teachers returned to their own classrooms to implement age-appropriate, technology-embedded, inquiry-based lesson plans that they had created, signifying a significant change in their teaching approaches. The project also supports an ongoing summer internship program for area high school students at three field stations along Montana's "Dinosaur Trail". These sites include Mikoshika Dinosaur Museum in Glendive, the Dinosaur Field Station in Malta, and the Two Medicine Dinosaur Museum in Bynum. The internship program has strengthened capacity within and among these centers, leading to hands-on collaboration in the training and deployment of interns. Other project partners include the Northwest Regional Education Laboratory, which is providing evaluation services, and Explore Digital Education, Inc., which is creating a documentary film about the program.


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Principal Investigator(s)
Co-Principal Investigator(s)


Award Number
Project Duration
2006 - 2010
University of Montana, Outside of US
Project Work State
Target Gradespan(s)
Middle school (6-8)
Project Setting(s)
Formal Education
Informal Education
Geographic Location(s)
Project Status
Additional Disciplines
Environmental Science - ecological research and analysis
Environmental Science - GIS/GPS
Environmental Science - remote sensing technology
Additional Target Participants
STEM Professionals
American Indian or Alaskan Native