Weather Forecast


Forum editorial: Old bones created a new era

When John Hoganson shelves his specialized tools today, he will be leaving behind a record that has earned North Dakota a place on the international fossil map. The state paleontologist wraps up 33 years with the North Dakota Geological Survey, most of that time as state paleontologist. It’s a position he defined. Under his direction, the state emerged as one of the most important places on the planet for dinosaur digs, scientific fossil recovery and preparation, and world-class displays of prehistoric creatures and habitats.

The West Fargo native not only raised the discipline’s profile in North Dakota, he also worked with lawmakers to pass legislation to protect the state’s rich trove of fossil resources. Those laws helped the state attain national and international prominence in paleontology. He also brought the best field techniques and lab science to his work, thus ensuring the state’s reputation as a place where paleontology is done properly.

Hoganson has been more than a scientist. He’s been an ambassador for the state’s fossil treasures, and also an advocate for education for children and students. The education component of his work afforded countless young people hands-on experiences at fossil digs and at the Heritage Center in Bismarck, where he is headquartered.

Among his many lasting achievements: The specular new fossils and fossil cast mounts of dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals at the newly expanded Heritage Center. His expertise was essential in ensuring the scientific integrity of the displays, and making them user-friendly. He and his team, in conjunction with the State Historical Society, got it right.

Hoganson is retiring, but he is not walking away from the work he loves. He intends to write for scientific journals and complete a couple of research projects. It’s also likely that on occasion he will dust off his brushes and rock hammers and go to work at a dig site. And here’s hoping he’s available to North Dakota to consult on paleontology projects. No one in the state has a broader and deeper knowledge of the subject.

His legacy is secure. The work he’s done ensures the state’s important role in an ongoing worldwide effort to better understand the fossil record. It doesn’t get any better than that for a paleontologist. We wish him success in whatever he chooses to do in the future. And we join North Dakotans in saluting him for a job well done.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.