Back Issues
Carnegie Museums


To him the dinosaur is the perfect, “all-purpose teaching machine” to capture everyone’s interest in the details of Earth history and biology.






Dr. Hans-Dieter Sues: Dinosaur Hunter

Dr. Hans-Dieter Sues, Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology, and the Associate Director for Science and Collections, is the lead scientist for the development of Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s Dinosaur Hall expansion. He has collected dinosaurs and other fossil vertebrates in many regions of the United States, Canada, China, Germany, Morocco and Uzbekistan. His research on dinosaurs and mass extinctions as well as his innovative work on museum exhibits has been widely featured in the national and international media.

Hans-Dieter Sues digs up a dinosaur bone in Uzbekistan, September 2002.

This summer Sues will be in St. Petersburg, Russia, re-searching the fossil collection of the Zoological Institute of the Russian Academy of Science, with his colleague Alexander Averianov. “There are new species being identified and described regularly,” says Sues, and in this case he is studying about five new creatures: “an early duck-billed dinosaur, a large relative of the Velociraptor; a large ostrich-mimic dinosaur (like an ostrich with a long tail), a late descendant of Diplodocus; and an early true-horned dinosaur,-a relative of Triceratops.” His goal
is to produce with Averianov a series of scientific monographs to establish these new species for the world of science. This is the painstaking analysis that follows
the fieldwork and the collecting of specimens.

Sues doesn’t only go to places like the Gobi Desert to do fieldwork. He says sites in Pennsylvania and the Eastern Atlantic states are potentially rich,
and reels off the names like York and Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where he has worked, looking at ledges of rock, excavating, digging in streambeds. In York
he was digging in the soil behind a McDonald’s dumpster when someone challenged him, thinking he was in search of a good meal. At the Bay of Fundy in
Nova Scotia he was prying a fossil from beach rock with his wife when the world’s largest and most powerful ocean tide started swirling around his legs.

Sues says he was age four when he knew he wanted to be a paleontologist, after seeing wonderful pictures of past life in a book called Prehistoric Animals (1961). He has never deviated, professionally, from that childhood dream, and has been happily productive for years in a profession where a single discovery or scientific study can redirect the efforts of researchers. To him the dinosaur is the perfect, “all-purpose teaching machine” to capture everyone’s interest in the details of Earth history and biology.

In his background is a Harvard Ph.D., years of fieldwork, and experience with the world's great research collections. Currently he is the President of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, the world’s premier professional association in the field. So he knows how the major museums around the world display dinosaurs. He believes that Dinosaurs in Their World, the exhibit planned for Carnegie Museum of Natural History, “will be one of the finest dinosaur exhibits anywhere. It will gain from and build on the experience that other museums have had in preparing their

Back to Contents

Innovative Program Brings the Museum to Schools
“Distance Learning” links Earth Theater and 500 Sixth Graders

Illustration By
Dave Klug

Carnegie Museum of Natural History is going for the whole package when it comes to delivering natural history topics to classrooms. The Division of Education already has visiting in-school presenters, and a “loan collection” that travels to schools and other institutions. Now the museum has an entire academic standards-based classroom teaching unit for a two-week experience that includes video conferencing.

The pilot program in spring 2003 involves over 500 sixth-graders in two different middle schools, Fox Chapel in Allegheny County, and College Square in Beaver County. Its title is the IDEA Program, an acronym for “Integrated Distance Education Activity,” and it is supported by a three-year grant from The Grable Foundation.

“ Biodiversity” is the first topic, but plans are to add “Dinosaurs” and “Cultural Diversity” in the future. Each pilot school gets a full curriculum: 1) a 20-page booklet that students use to explore the topic; 2) a visit from a museum educator (with props) in the class at the start and end of the project; 3) a live video-conference from the Earth Theater to the classroom; and 4) loan kits to help young people investigate biodiversity.

Diane Gryzbek, Chair of the Division of Education, says “The IDEA Program shows how three internal offerings of the Division can be successfully integrated: the In-school Program, the Educational Loan Collection, and Museum on the Move (which reaches special needs audiences) to create a program that is more dynamic than each stand-alone program.”

Kerry Handron, Director of the Earth Theater, says this is the first time she knows of a museum using a theater like this to do more than a one-point-of-contact presentation to a school. A zoo or museum more typically teleconferences a 45-minute presentation to a school on a subject such as “Bats”— but then it is over. With Earth Theater, a museum expert in the theater shows up in the classroom via video conferencing to answer student questions and help the already-underway project along. Handron can add “B-roll” film (pre-taped short units) to make video conferencing more complete.

Prior to the video conference, the teacher will have been working with students “in the field” to analyze a 10-meter site outside their school building, and students will have tried techniques such as mapping, using a compass, a bird-song identifier, and soil corer. At the end of the two weeks, a museum presenter in class discusses how the 10-meter study site is an example of what bio-surveys are like on a large scale in different parts of the world.

For more information about the IDEA Program, or to schedule a program for 2003-2004, call 412.578.2580, or email handronk@carnegiemuseums.org.

Back to Contents


Copyright (c) 2003 CARNEGIE magazine. All rights reserved.