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Meet a Paleontologist

Dr. Plotnick Dr. Ash in Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

Sidney Ash

Adjunct Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences

University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM

NFD Kid's Page Interview...

What are you working on now?

I study the land plants of the early part of the "Age of Dinosaurs". I am especially interested in those from the Triassic Period (about 201 - 252 Ma) which are rather poorly known. This flora is an intermediate flora between the primitive floras of earlier times and the angiosperm flora of the modern world. Consequently, it is an exciting flora to work on because it contains so many new and strange plants that were not known to science until my work and must be assigned to new species, genera, and families of plants. At present I am concentrating my efforts on the Late Triassic fossil flora of Petrified Forest National Park in northern Arizona because so many of the fossils I find there are new to science. The results of my research have appeared in nearly 150 refereed articles, published mostly in national and international journals and books.

Where did you go to school? What were some of your favorite classes that you took?

After earning a Bachelor's degree in History at Midland University in Nebraska I was called to active duty for three years with the U.S. Navy Seabees during which time we worked in a variety of geological environments including the coral islands and reefs of the Caribbean, the deserts of North Africa, and the glacial deposits of eastern Canada. As a result of being exposed to such a variety of geological environments I decided to study geology after being released from active duty. When that happened I entered the University of New Mexico where I earned another Bachelor's degree and a Master's degree in geology. During most of the time that I attended the University of New Mexico I also worked for the U.S. Geological Survey part time. By then I had become very interested in paleontology and began collecting Late Triassic plant fossils at the suggestion of my supervisor who was a paleobotanist. Eventually, at his suggestion I applied to do graduate work in England under the supervision of one of the world’s experts on the plant life of the early part of the Age of Dinosaurs. He accepted me as his student and two years later I was awarded a PhD from the University of Reading. I then began my teaching career and, as time permitted continued with my study of plant fossils.

My favorite classes were all those that concerned paleontology especially paleobotany, as the study of fossil plants is known, as well as stratigraphy, sedimentology and the history of the earth.

Was there an experience you had that made you realize you wanted to be a paleontologist?

No, it just developed over time as I was growing up here in New Mexico where you cannot avoid being immersed in geology and paleontology nearly every time you step out of doors as long as you are curious and keep your eyes open.

What is your most memorable experience working with fossils?

Collecting Late Triassic plant fossils from a mine where the early American Geologist and explorer John Wesley Powell had collected some in 1887.

Do you have any advice for aspiring paleontologists?

Yes, they should take as many classes as they can in both zoology and botany in addition to English and mathematics.

NFD Kid's Page Paleontologist Interviews:

Cassi Knight  Roy Plotnick  Thomas Holtz  Sidney Ash  Joshua Samuels  Alan Titus  Vince Santucci  Josh Bonde 
Michelle Pinsdorf  Glenn W. Storrs  Rebecca Hunt-Foster  Arthur J. Boucot  Robert B. Blodgett  Greg McDonald  Eric Scott  Sally Shelton 
Hans Deitre-Sues  Jim Kirkland  Alton Dooley  Karen Chin  Erica Clites  Katie Loughney  Richard Kissel  Andrew Heckert 
John Repetski  Christy Visaggi  John Hoganson  Scott Foss  Bruce Schumacher  Scott Sampson  Greg Liggett  Jere Lipps 
Matthew Miller  David Brezinski  James Hagadorn  Kari Prassack  Tony Fiorillo  Mike Fracasso  Diana Boudreau  Phil Varela 
Mindy Householder  Andrew Milner  Don Prothero  Bill Parker  Kenshu Shimada  Jason Schein  Robyn Henderek 

Cassi Knight
Roy Plotnick
Thomas Holtz
Sidney Ash
Joshua Samuels
Alan Titus
Vincent Santucci
Josh Bonde
Michelle Pinsdorf
Glenn W. Storrs
Rebecca Hunt-Foster
Arthur J. Boucot
Robert B. Blodgett
Greg McDonald
Eric Scott
Sally Shelton
Hans Deitre-Sues
Jim Kirkland
Alton Dooley
Karen Chin
Erica Clites
Katie Loughney
Richard Kissel
Andrew Heckert
John Repetski
Christy Visaggi
John Hoganson
Scott Foss
Bruce Schumacher
Scott Sampson
Greg Liggett
Jere Lipps
Matthew Miller
David Brezinski
James Hagadorn
Kari Prassack
Tony Fiorillo
Mike Fracasso
Diana Boudreau
Phil Varela
Mindy Householder
Andrew Milner
Don Prothero
Bill Parker
Kenshu Shimada
Jason Schein
Robyn Henderek


Last updated: June 12, 2013