The Dino-Nerd: Josh Bonde

UNLV visiting assistant professor of paleontology and geoscience, and fossil-hunting rock star

Photo by Zack W

Photo by Zack W

ACHIEVEMENTS: Bonde has been behind Southern Nevada’s recent headline-making fossil discoveries, including Nevada’s only Ice Age dire wolf and the oldest land animal ever found here. Predictable for a man who, as a 12-year-old “dino-nerd,” saw Jurassic Park five times in the theater—always in the front row, so as to make the beasts appear as large as possible. Bonde came of age as a paleontologist in an era when people such as Jack Horner, one of his professors at Montana State University, were shaking things up. Now, it’s his turn.

THE VEGAS LAB: Besides continuing digs in the Valley of Fire and central Nevada, Bonde may soon be helping to turn dirt closer to home. In 2012, he set up the Paleontology Preparation Lab at the Las Vegas Museum of Natural History to give his UNLV students hands-on experience working with fossils, rather than sending the bones out of state to be processed. Now the museum board is contemplating a major expansion, and a larger, state-of-the-art lab would be a key component.

REVIVING THE PAST: “I do the CSI side of paleontology,” Bonde says. “I’m not the guy who goes out and names new species; I’m the one who says, ‘We can tell what Southern Nevada looked like 100 million years ago because of this piece of turtle shell.'”

DRY HUMOR: Bonde appreciates the Mojave Desert’s dry landscape; it’s easier to tell which rocks are fossils when they’re not covered in “green crap.”

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