Joe Grove in dinosaur lab

Joseph Grove ’20, Moorhead
Majors: Biology and Chemistry

Please tell us about yourself.

I’m Joseph Grove, a senior majoring in both biology and chemistry. I am originally from Moorhead (Roll Spuds!) and I have a deep interest in biochemistry and comparative anatomy. I’ll be applying to medical schools with the hope to become an oncologist.

What made you choose Concordia?

I chose Concordia for the familial atmosphere. Everyone I’ve met is welcoming and willing to get to know you. I also chose Concordia for the college’s care and attentiveness toward the sciences. The main reason why I came to Concordia is my belief that the faculty in the biology and chemistry departments can and will prepare me to be the best scientist I can be, which ultimately will mold me into the best physician that I can be.

What have you been involved in at Concordia and how have they helped you grow?

My freshman year, I was on the wrestling team, which helped me develop a work ethic that I could use for academics. I am a member of Students and Alumni Linked Together (SALT), which helped me become more active with on-campus events. I really enjoy stepping out of my comfort zone by talking to alumni and reaching out to students around campus. SALT has helped me develop my communication skills and appreciate the Concordia community.

I also was involved with Habitat for Humanity for the past two years. I went on two spring break trips, leading one, and was also one of the co-fundraising chairs. I learned leadership and organizational skills, especially planning fundraising events for future trips and leading a troop of students halfway across the country.

I am also the vice president and treasurer of the Health Professions Interest Club (HPIC). We plan medical field-related events celebrating the future careers and current careers of Cobbers. HPIC has helped me develop my planning and communication skills as well. Lastly, for the past three years, I’ve been doing research and working in the dinosaur lab at Concordia. Overall, these clubs and extracurricular activities have helped me become a better person and be more active in the Concordia community than I would have ever thought I would be.

What’s your favorite thing about Concordia?

My favorite thing about Concordia is the community. I really enjoy the people and the lifelong friends that I have met here. I feel comfortable at Concordia and that has helped me grow into the person that I am today.

Joe Grove in dinosaur research lab

What do you do outside of class to help you prepare for the future?

Outside of class and clubs, I mainly worked on my research or worked as a CNA at Sanford. Research has helped me grow academically and working as a CNA at Sanford helped me grow professionally. In the hospital, I was fortunate enough to witness treatments and procedures, as well as working alongside many healthcare professionals. Communicating with and caring for patients is one of my favorite things while working at Sanford.

You’ve had the opportunity to participate in dinosaur digs through Concordia. Tell us about those.

The dinosaur digs consist of a two and a half week expedition to the Seven Blackfoot Ranch about two hours northwest of Jordan, Mont. The ranch is rather isolated, being three hours away from the nearest clinic and composed of about 100 miles of dirt road. The rancher, Dave Solberg, once said, “If you live out here, you either hate people or you are crazy.” The campsite is off a ridge overlooking the canyon and buttes of the Seven Blackfoot Creek in the middle of a cow pasture. It’s common to wake up to a cow outside your tent.

Before a day of digging begins, we get up between 4:30 and 6 a.m. for field preparations or just going for a clear morning run. We make breakfast and lunches before going out since we are out on the buttes until around 5 p.m. We leave around 8 a.m. and drive to numerous locations. Our goal is to look for bones at a certain elevation since these layers would have the dinosaur bones of the time period we are focusing on. The dinosaurs we look for are Triceratops, Champosaurs, Dromaeosaurs, Edmontosaurs, Ankylosaurs, marine vertebrates, and hopefully Tyrannosaurs.

We hike out to certain areas we know might have good washings. These areas are steep and dangerous to climb. We want to find buttes with adequate erosion, mainly looking for bone fragments at the base and following the trail up toward where the bone could potentially be. The sediment is loose and less concrete than you would see in other areas of the Hell Creek Formation, so the bones in this area of Montana are fragmented and fragile.

Once we find something, we make sure it’s a bone by tapping it with a knife or by licking it. We cut around the edges, with caution, to take off more sediment. We do this to dig the bone out more, which leads us to decide if it would be worth taking out or not. Sometimes you can find gorgeous, complete bones and other times you’ll find bone junk – lone bone fragment(s) that are indistinguishable. Once we cut the top layer of sediment, we plaster and tin foil the bone. This is for stability when taking the bone out since they are fragile. Once the bone is out, this can take one or two days to prepare. We put the bone on a stretcher and carry the specimen 3 or 4 miles out of the canyon. From there, we take it back to camp and catalog the bone. We clean it back in the lab.

In our free time, we read or hang out. Usually, we were so tired from the hot and long day that we just went to bed around 9 or 10 p.m. Essentially, we camp in the middle of nowhere and hunt for dinosaur fossils during the day. Sometimes it’s 90 degrees with 100% humidity and other days it will be a thunderstorm with hurricane-like winds flying across the buttes.

Joe Grove holding dinosaur bones

What has been the coolest discovery from the dinosaur digs?

The coolest discovery was two years ago when Sonja Gilje found a partial Triceratops skull close to the vans. There was an entire sphenoid and half of the frill, including two complete Triceratops horns (one having the dorsal portion of the orbital socket). My other two favorite discoveries were last year when we found a Triceratops scapula and a partial Hadrosaur pubis. This is extremely rare, as Hadrosaurs are not frequently found in this area. But somehow we found that, as well as a complete Hadrosaur tail and dentry, which we will dig out next year because we found them closer to the end of our two weeks.

What advice would you give Cobbers thinking about going into science or pre-med?

Find something to do that you love. You don’t have to focus specifically on medical or scientific research. You should want to do something you have a passion for, not because you think you need to. Do something that helps you connect various fields and has a correlation to the humanities. This will help you diversify your skills and passions, making yourself more human (not a “robot” that detaches themselves from the emotions of people and research). If you’re thinking of going into science or medicine, I highly recommend doing something you care about or have a passion for. You’ll learn a lot about yourself in doing so.

Published October 2019