Flagstaff Festival of Science — Local Science Spotlight: Digging up Earth’s Evolutionary Past with Dr. David Gillette

| April 26, 2022

In a world defined by cities reaching for the sky, Dr. David Gillette has dedicated his life to looking below the surface at the world that once was. Dave is many things: a paleontologist, a geologist, and a biologist, who studies the history of the Earth through the lens of evolution.

Although Dave is retired, he is still active within the research and outreach community. With his trusty rock hammer, Dave explores the life that once existed on Earth millions of years ago, taking opportunities as they come to him to explore new areas and find new fossils, as well as to share his work with the public.

Dave shares the joys of fossil oysters with his 9-year-old pal Hayden Anderson.
By permission, John Anderson.

“Like all other paleontologists, I’m an opportunist. As opportunities appeared, I took them.” Dave did his dissertation on North American Glyptodons, which are giant, ancient ancestors of the armadillo who flourished in South America, and some in North America. They have a rigid shell, and can sometimes be the size of a Volkswagen Beetle! Dave studies the evolution of these mammals, how they got here, how they lived, and how they went extinct.

“None of us scientists work in isolation,” Dave explains. His favorite work has always centered around his students as he finds fulfillment in being able to teach and lead others to research. “However”, he says, “My favorite work is whatever I have been working on!” To Dave, each part of his job is exciting, whether it is excavation, lab work, writing reports, or giving public lectures.

Read more about Dave and his work as a paleontologist on our blog!

Visit scifest.org for more details about the 2022 Festival of Science!

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Category: Education, Educational Opportunities, Programs, Resources

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