Adam Moore, Vertebrate Paleontology Master’s Student

background contains an off white museum cabinet with thin drawers. foreground is Adam, an individual with glasses and brown hair, holding up a visiting researcher name badge
Taking a break from field work to look at Falcarius vertebrae as a visiting researcher in the Natural History Museum of Utah’s (UMNH) paleontology collections.

Tell us a little bit about yourself. Hi! I am Adam Moore. I am a 1st year MS graduate student at North Carolina State University. Originally, I am from Kill Devil Hills, NC (a part of the Outer Banks of coastal North Carolina). This past May, I finished up my Bachelor’s Degree from North Carolina State University with a BS in Geology and two Minors in Biological Sciences and Paleontology. When not working on school or research, I enjoy reading (typically about dinosaurs!), photography, hiking, camping, visiting museums, and traveling. In fact, I love these so much that, after field work in Utah this past summer, I decided to drive back to North Carolina from Utah so that I could visit a few of the National Parks and museums along the way! 

What kind of scientist are you and what do you do?

I am a Master’s student in Geology working on becoming a vertebrate paleontologist with a focus on dinosaurs. As of now, since I am just starting out, I do an assortment of things related to paleontology. Currently, I have a few different research projects I am working on along with my Master’s Thesis. 

During my Bachelor’s Degree, in 2022, I started a research project in the biology department at my school that involved identifying fossilized shark teeth from one specific site. This is something that I am currently still working on. At that time, I was also involved in an internship at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in the Paleontology Lab where I worked on an assortment of different projects around the lab. I eventually started a project that developed further into a research project. The research involved the vertebrae of an early-diverging therizinosaur known as Falcarius utahensis to understand parts of its ontogeny. To my delight, I will have the chance to present my research on Falcarius at the 2023 Society of Vertebrate Paleontology conference in the form of a poster. 

Background contains light colored sandstone rock with blue sky in the far back. Foreground contains Adam with windblown hair, sunglasses, and a smile. Notably Adam's shirt is covered in dust and dirt from a day of fieldwork.
Extremely dirty wearing a no-longer-white shirt in the badlands of Utah during paleontology field work.

This past August, at the start of the school semester, I began working on my Master’s Thesis. The research I am doing for my MS involves a mix of paleoclimate and dinosaurs. I will be looking at data from a few different sites in Western North America from the Cretaceous Period to better understand the climates of those regions to see how it impacted dinosaurs from Laramidia. 

Outside of direct research, I have also been fortunate enough to be involved in paleontology in other ways as well through the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. For the last two summers (2022 and 2023), I have done field work in the Cedar Mountain Formation in Utah. Participating in field work is, in my opinion, one of the coolest aspects of paleontology. I mean, when you uncover a new fossil, you get to be the first human to ever see those fossils! It is always great being out there finding new material (or at least trying to find new material)! 

Background has dark gray clouds with some falling rain. Light tan sandstone rocks cover the landscape. Foreground has Adam with windblown hair, sunglasses, a rain coat, and other field gear.
During paleontology field work in Utah preparing for a summer afternoon rainstorm.

What is your favorite part about being a scientist, and how did you get interested in science? Simple curiosity, wonder, and excitement in the unknown drove my interest in science. I have been interested in science for as long as I can remember (specifically anything involving dinosaurs). I have always been a collector of sorts, and due to that, basically since I could walk, I was always searching the ground or combing the shore for interesting things to take back home. Growing up on the coastal community of the Outer Banks, I would go out to find interesting rocks, bones, shells, and, if I were lucky, fossils all along the beach and take them back to my home to clean them up and organize them accordingly. I was, as many kids are, a “dinosaur kid.” I was absolutely fascinated by them growing up and just never grew out of it. Based on picture evidence, since the time I could develop interests, I was never found without a dinosaur toy (or two or maybe even a whole backpack…) or book in hand everywhere I went. I knew from an early age that I wanted to grow up to become a paleontologist specializing in dinosaurs. This became extra solidified when I saw my first dinosaur mount as a young child at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. I remember reading all of the plaques and looking at all of the specimens in their dinosaur section with it culminating in the glass dome encasing the Acrocanthosaurus frozen in time and thinking something along the lines of “yeah, this is exactly what I want to do” while looking up at the massive dinosaur in absolute awe. Now being involved with the lab at this same museum, it is a full circle moment for me that I don’t take for granted. 

Honestly, those moments of curiosity and wonderment are some of my favorite parts about being a scientist. Being curious by asking questions about dinosaurs (and paleontology, in general) and answering them (attempting to, at least) through field work, data collecting and analyzing, and research always excites me. We are figuring things out about our incredible planet’s past, and it always astounds me how much we know and, at the same time, how much more there is for us to learn. Filling in those gaps is something that drives me in my research and desire to be a paleontologist. Also, communicating that knowledge to other people is something else I personally enjoy. It is always rewarding to see their curiosity and wonderment grow as you relay information to them about the past in engaging and understandable ways.

Background has blue sky, a tall mountain range. Closer to the foreground is a gravely slab. Adam is in the foreground is Adam in a hat and sunglasses with a smile.
Enjoying a hike in McKittrick Canyon in the Guadalupe Mountains to look for Permian fossils with his classmates (not pictured) on the North Carolina State University’s Geology Fall Break trip.

What advice do you have for up-and-coming scientists? My first piece of advice for up-and-coming scientists would be to get involved in any way you can. Talk to your local museum about internships and volunteer opportunities that you could be a part of. There might even be a possibility to volunteer out in the field with other paleontologists too. This is a good way to figure out what you like and what you do not like. Sometimes, knowing what you don’t like can be just as valuable as knowing what you do like. If you find that you do not like certain aspects of paleontology, don’t get discouraged. For example, I know a few paleontologists who don’t consider themselves “field paleontologists”, and that is perfectly fine because there are other opportunities in this field that do not require them to go out into the field and they are still great scientists. If you find something that you really like, try getting a mentor or advisor that can further help you too. Getting good mentors are one of the best things you can do when you are first starting out. 

Another piece of advice I have is to really dive into the available literature. This could include things like books, papers, articles, among other things. By delving into the literature, you can see what other paleontologist are doing and what sort of issues they are tackling. This can help you better understand the field of paleontology and to develop research questions of your own too. If you find something you are interested in and you want to know more, try reaching out to the authors. This is a good way to virtually network with other scientists in the field and, while it can be intimidating, the worst thing that can happen is that they do not respond. I also want to say to not get discouraged if something does not happen the way you planned or would have liked for it to go. Sometimes there are setbacks to your career plans, but there will always be more opportunities in the future!

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