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Fossil Fascination in Woodbury

Meet Woodbury High School graduate Sharon Holte, who’s digging her chosen field.

Sharon Holte, a 2005 graduate of , has been accepted at the University of Florida, where she will pursue her PhD in biology with a paleontology emphasis.

She was awarded a grant, a Departmental Teaching Assistantship and a Grinter Fellowship. Besides her studies, teaching and other duties, Holte will also be spending four months this fall and next fall in Panama conducting in-field research related to paleontology.

It’s the continuation of a life filled with fascination for dinosaurs and extinct creatures.

On the Ground

On May 5, Holte graduated from the East Tennessee State University (ETSU) in Johnson City, Tenn., with a master’s degree in geosciences with a paleontology emphasis. Holte was awarded a full fellowship (National Science Foundation) to attend ETSU. In addition to her course work, Holte taught science to local grade school students. Her thesis is a study on the extinct American Ground Sloth (Megalonyx jeffersonii).

Prior to attending ETSU, Holte graduated cum laude from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City, S.D., in 2009. She received an undergraduate degree in geology with a paleontology emphasis.

During this time, Holte traveled to Turkey to conduct research. Her senior seminar class project was a comparison analysis of a partial humerus bone (she discovered at the Mammoth Site in South Dakota) to other examples (from the La Brea Tar Pits and the collection housed at the Page Museum in California) to determine if the bone belonged to either the Giant Short-Faced Bear (Arctodus simus) or the American Lion (Panthera leo atrox).

Her analysis concluded that the humerus was from the extinct Giant Short-Faced Bear.

Beginnings

Holte began her interests in science at a very young age thanks in part to the Science Museum of Minnesota as well as her own curiosity. Before, during, and after grade school, she studied rocks and dinosaurs. By the age of 14, and through her high school years, she explored for mammoth and other ancient animal bones at the Mammoth Site in Hot Springs, S.D., under the guidance of Dr. Larry Agenbroad, the site director.

Agenbroad personally invited Holte to participate (in the Mammoth Site’s annual summer programs) after meeting and talking with her during a vacation trip a few weeks before her 13th birthday.

Agenbroad has been a strong supporter of Holte’s goals ever since and awarded her with his very first grant to help her pursue her interests. This grant was funded by the Discovery Channel in Agenbroad’s name.

From her 14th birthday on, and while working on her undergraduate degree, Holte could be found during the summers at a paleontology dig site in eastern Wyoming near Devils Tower or working as a volunteer, then later as an employee at the Mammoth Site.

Geology

One summer, while pursuing her master’s degree, Holte took a break from her paleontology interests. Using her geology background, she worked for Rare Element Resources, a rare-earth mineral exploration company that is presently exploring the Bear Lodge Mountains of Crook County in northeast Wyoming for rare minerals and gold.

Over the years, Holte has accumulated hundreds of hours of in-field experience in both paleontology and geology. She hopes is to become a university professor or possibly starting a company with a group of friends that have similar backgrounds.

Holte is a member of the following professional societies: Geological Society of America, the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, South Eastern Association of Vertebrate Paleontology, and the Don Sundquist Center of Excellence in Paleontology.

 

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