From Curious Volunteer to
Dinosaur Discoverer

Jul 08, 2024
Above: Savhannah Carpenters running the fossil touch table at the Natural History Museum of Utah’s annual Dino Fest.

Savhannah Carpenter’s route to being the only student listed on the research team credited with finding the world’s newest horned dinosaur didn’t follow a straight line.

As a young adult, Carpenter wasn’t sure if college was for her, but she did want to reconnect with her childhood love of paleontology. She started doing volunteer fieldwork with the Natural History Museum of Utah and her passion led Carrie Levitt-Bussian, the paleontology collections manager, to suggest she intern at the museum. There was just one catch. Carpenter would need to be a student at the University of Utah.

“I took the shot and applied for the U and luckily I got in,” said Carpenter.

Recent U graduate Savhannah Carpenter is the a co-author on a paper about the world’s newest horned dinosaur.

Once at the U, Carpenter immediately started taking dinosaur classes and met paleontologist and faculty member, Mark Loewen. Impressed by her communication skills, Loewen asked her to be a teaching assistant for his course.  “Sometimes I would just turn the class over to her and let her answer questions,” Lowen said. “It is amazing to watch her think on her feet.”

According to Loewen, having people who can communicate science like Carpenter is essential.“I have lots of colleagues in the field who are amazing researchers and I respect their work,” he said. “But they can’t get people excited about it. The future of scientific research, and the funding of scientific research, really hinges on whether we can get other people excited about what we are doing.”

As part of her undergraduate studies, Carpenter also worked on ceratopsian research with Loewen. Through the Department of Geology and Geophysics, she was even able to get course credit for this work. Recently the 2024 U grad joined him and other researchers as a co-author on a paper identifying a new type of dinosaur, Lokiceratops rangiformis. “I was really excited to share Lokiceratops with the world because no one has seen him in 78 million years and it’s nice to welcome him back,” she said.

“Sometimes being a science person looks like playing in the dirt or rock climbing and making observations,” Carpenter said. “It’s not always doing chemistry in a lab. Fieldwork really helped bring me back to my roots and realize we are all science people. It just looks different for everybody.”

Undergraduate research played a key role in helping Carpenter connect with her coursework.

Read more about Savhannah Carpenter's journey @The U.

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