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Monday, Dec. 22, 2014

From Sikeston to Madagascar

Thursday, May 22, 2003

Former resident finds many adventures studying dinosaurs

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Life with Kristi Curry Rogers is literally one big adventure after another.

A veteran of field research in the United States, Africa and Madagascar, the Sikeston, Mo., native specializes in the study of dinosaur growth as well as the group of long-necked dinosaurs called brontosaurs.

Curry Rogers' most recent adventure was giving birth to her daughter, Lucy Evelyn, on April 11. But prior to that, Curry Rogers, her geologist husband, Ray Rogers, and their colleague, David Krause, made the first clear-cut discovery of cannibalism among dinosaurs.

"Basically, there's always been speculation about cannibalism among dinosaurs," said the 1992 graduate of Sikeston High School. "But no one's ever had real hard evidence. For the first time we've been able to pinpoint that a dinosaur has made tooth marks on another dinosaur."

Although the excavation occurred in 1996, 1998 and 1999 in Madagascar, the initial discovery of dinosaur cannibalism happened at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, Ill.

Curry Rogers and her research team examined the jaws and teeth of other known meat-eaters in the Madagascar region, including a much smaller carnivorous dinosaur and two large crocodiles but only the Majungatholus possessed the jaws and teeth capable of inflicting the damage seen by the team.

"The Majungatholus is a downsized version of the Tyrannosaurus Rex," Curry Rogers explained. "Its' the T-Rex of Madagascar."

Finding tooth marks on the bones was a mutual discovery in Chicago, Curry Rogers said. She was examining some bones and so was her husband when they both called at each to view their findings.

"Most people think of people being out in a field when they make a discovery, but what makes our discovery different is that we made it in the museum later," Curry Rogers pointed out.

Curry Rogers and her team's findings were even published in the April 3 issue of Nature.

Excavations like the ones in Madagascar last around six weeks, Curry Rogers said. The culture there is so different, she added.

A typical day begins around 5:30 a.m. and a quick breakfast is eaten along with a cup of coffee made through a sock, Curry Rogers said, adding that using a sock makes really strong coffee. Then the research team is divided into two groups of those excavating stones and the others prospecting for fossils. They return late in the evening to a dinner of rice and beans and go to sleep around 10:30 or 11.

Although Curry Rogers prefers prospecting fossils because it's like hiking, there's nothing like finding a fossil.

"It's really weird when you discover something because dinosaurs roamed the earth 65 million years ago and when you find something, you really are the first person to see it," Curry Rogers noted.

Curry Rogers received a bachelor's degree from Montana State University-Bozeman in 1996. Later Curry Rogers earned her master's and Ph.D. in anatomical sciences from Stonybrook University in New York, where she met her husband and later moved to Minnesota with him.

Currently, Curry Rogers works as a curator of paleontology at the Science Museum of Minnesota and a visiting assistant professor of geology at Macalester College in St. Paul.

"Ever since I was about 7 years old, I have liked dinosaurs," Curry Rogers recalled. "I would spend hours at the Sikeston Public Library looking at pictures of fossils in books."

The daughter of Pat and Terry Curry of Sikeston, Curry Rogers visits home once or twice a year, usually at Christmas, and if not then, she visits in the summer.

"My parents do come and visit. They were here in April after I had Lucy," Curry Rogers said.

Although it's great having a baby, Curry Rogers said, she admitted it's taken a while to adjust to being on maternity leave.

"The most challenging part has been not working," Curry Rogers said. "My husband and I have jobs where we always bring work home with us after our 9 to 5 job is over. It's been five weeks now, and I'm just realizing it will be over soon so I'm relishing it."

Curry Rogers will probably need the extra rest because in August, the couple is heading to Montana for an excavation and plan to take their daughter who will be 3-1/2-months-old with them.

"Normally, we go camping, but I think we're going to stay in a house since we'll have the baby with us," Curry Rogers said.

The journey doesn't stop there. In the fall, the family is planning to travel to Argentina and next summer, it's off to another adventure in Mongolia.