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Geology student spent the summer learning how to find and collect fossils in Panama

isaac magallanes in panama
Geology student Isaac Magallanes spent 10 weeks this summer excavating fossils in Panama.

Cal State Fullerton geology student Isaac Magallanes aspires to be a researching paleontologist. So when he was offered the opportunity to participate in a summer internship through the Panama Canal Project--Partnerships for International Research and Education, Magallanes was understandably elated.

He participated in a two-week training session at the University of Florida, followed by 10 weeks excavating fossils in Panama.

The Panama Canal is currently undergoing an expansion -- the canal’s largest construction project -- that will double its capacity.

The expansion has unearthed a number of fossils and artifacts, hence the need for geologists and paleontologists in the area, said Magallanes, 21.

“With all of the construction going on, they cleared a lot of the land and exposed a lot of the bed rock,” he said.

While Magallanes has spent a vast amount of time studying and analyzing fossils in a lab setting while attending C.S.U.F, excavating fossils and readying them for research was something he had never done prior to the internship.

“A lot of the research I do (at C.S.U.F.), the fossils that we work on here -- it’s a little bit different,” he said.

Most of the fossils Magallanes had been exposed to in his past research were well-cleaned and prepared for analysis.

“A lot of the fossils I work on have already been excavated. They are ready for study,” he said. “So when I knew I was going to be digging up fossils in the Panama Canal I was really excited. It was what I always wanted to do ever since I was a kid.”

At the University of Florida, Magallanes was taught the proper manner and techniques for successfully excavating fossils in the Panama Canal.

“The conditions I was digging in were kind of harsh,” he said. “Coming from Southern California, Panama is humid.”

Over the 10 weeks spent in the country, Magallanes and his team found fossilized turtle shells, shark teeth, horse teeth and crocodile vertebrae and teeth, among other items.

Read entire article. Article from Orange County Register, September 13, 2015.