Club Profile: Dead Lizards Society puts a spin on paleontology

Dead Lizards Society (DLS) is a departmental club at MSU for undergraduate and graduate students who are interested in paleontology, evolutionary biology and geology. The purpose of the club is to provide a setting in which members can have engaged discussions about new and controversial paleontological literature.

DLS was founded around 1990 by a group of Professor of Paleontology Jack Horner’s first graduate students. Membership has increased in recent years after paleontology became a major option for undergraduates in the Department of Earth Sciences.

There are 30 active members of the club and they meet a minimum of three times a semester.

Daniel Barta and Katie Tremaine are the co-presidents of DLS. Currently working on his master’s degree, Barta has been a member of the club since his freshman year at MSU in 2008. He discovered DLS through fellow students and his motivation in joining the club was to meet others who shared similar interest in paleontology. “I didn’t have too many opportunities while I was growing up to meet peers who were as interested in paleontology as I was,” Barta said.

During DLS meetings, students discuss paleontology readings in an informal, yet academically challenging setting. Barta emphasized the research papers the members read play a vital role in the meetings; “DLS allows students an opportunity to immediately gain exposure to topics that they might not otherwise encounter in their research or classes.”

DLS presents opportunities for undergraduates to form valuable connections with graduate peers, who can share beneficial information and assist other students with topics ranging from classwork issues to developing research projects.

Barta explained that a compelling aspect of DLS is working with peers who have unique research topics, such as the growth and development of horned and long-necked dinosaurs, the microscopic structure of fossil bone, the predatory behavior of bird-like dinosaurs, and the preservation and microstructure of fossil eggs.

[pullquote align=”right”]“DLS allows students an opportunity to immediately gain exposure to topics that they might not otherwise encounter in their research or class.” — Daniel Barta, DLS president[/pullquote]

DLS has started doing public outreach and is looking to do more in the future. Their latest outreach activity was in September at the Montana Science and Engineering Festival in Bobcat stadium. The club had a booth showcasing a range of fossil casts and club member’s research.

Membership in DLS is available to all undergraduate and graduate students that are interested in discussing literature, research and opportunities in paleontology. For more information on the Dead Lizards Society, email