Dylan Wilmeth; Undergraduate Student
Hello, all! I’m Dylan Wilmeth, a lowly sophomore here at UWM. Although I was born in Texas, I’ve spent almost all my life here in Wisconsin. Ever since I can remember, I have had a passion for paleontology. I lived right next to my local library, and would devour any books and videos on prehistory. By the time college applications were on the horizon, I realized with horror that I had never really gone out and explored the field I was looking into. My parents, though encouraging me every step of the way by arranging meetings with paleontologists around the world on our travels, were not outdoors people, so I had never had any field experience. In the summer of 2008, I signed up for a public Triceratops dig in Bowman, North Dakota. I loved every minute of it, despite blistering heat and dust storms. The personnel liked my work so much that they took me on the next summer as an assistant. All my fears about field work were allayed.
Even before I started classes at UWM, Dr. Dornbos took me on as a lab assistant in an experimental new undergrad research program which I’m still continuing, in a lesser fashion, to this day. I was pleasantly flabbergasted when UWM chose me to be the student spokesperson for a Public Radio interview about the research program. Besides this, I haven’t done enough work to receive awards, nor have I been able to present any topics at conventions, but I hope to do so in the near future. I also hope to take a greater leadership role in Paleo Club in the coming years. I believe all that I have learned and will learn here will make me a better paleontologist in the future.
Besides geology, my other interests include music (making, listening to, and reviewing), literature, hiking, biking, sketching, geocaching, pina coladas, and getting caught in the rain.
- Hometown/High School?
Grafton, WI/ Grafton High
- Year in School and expected graduation date?
- What brought you to UWM?
It has a very diverse geology program right in my backyard, and a growing interest in paleo studies.
- What convinced you to major in Geosciences?
I kind of knew that I wanted to major from the beginning, since I need it for my prospective line of work. I’m also a huge science geek. I kind of came to Geosci in a roundabout way. I never had a rock collection as a kid, but I was fascinated in prehistoric life. Once I realized that I needed to know the rocks to know the fossils, I was set.
- What field of study would you like to go into and how would you describe it to a prospective student?
I like all the fields I’ve experienced, but I’ve always known that I wanted to be a paleontologist. I guess I never really grew out of the “dinosaur phase” as a kid, just expanded upon it. If you really don’t know what paleontology is, it’s essentially filling in the details of Earth’s ancient past through fossils and their environments. I’d preferably like to study vertebrates, possibly dinosaurs, but I’m keeping my options wide open.
- What's been your best experience so far?
The Iceland Trip, hands down. It’s not the best place to do paleontology, but it really opened my eyes to the other fields of geology. Every inch of that country is a piece of natural art.
- Have you gotten the opportunity to participate in field trips, field work, or travel as part of your education?
I’ve taken a couple of trips around Wisconsin and Michigan with Geo 100 and 301. I also helped and observed field work in Makoshika Park in Montana this summer with Dr. Isbell and Mike Kennedy. It’s not officially a class, but Paleo Club has also gone to lots of places. Through them, I went to the SVP Conference this year in Pittsburgh. We’re also going to Florida over Spring Break, so check it out!
- Have you gotten the opportunity to participate in a student research project while at UWM?
I was part of a new Undergraduate research program the summer before my Freshman year, and Dr. Dornbos took me on to help sift out Precambrian embryo fossils in his lab. Unfortunately, I haven’t managed to put in too many hours this year with all my school work, but I hope to return regularly next semester.
- What trait or thing has allowed you to succeed in geology?
I cannot get enough field work. I love being out in nature, seeing the rocks as a part of the planet instead of samples in a lab. Don’t get me wrong, lab work is vital, but I’d rather get fresh air, no matter what the climate. If I could, I would live outdoors in the wild.
- How would you describe the Department of Geosciences at UWM to a prospective student?
It’s a very vibrant and diverse group of faculty and students who all share a common interest. Many of my friends are surprised to hear how much our department offers, from colloquia and clubs to extensive field trips and research projects. There’s always something to do.
- Do you have any advice that you would give to a student who is new to the Geoscience major at UWM?
Go to everything and every event offered, even if you don’t know anyone. I went to just about every colloquium last year, just to see who’s who in the department, and to get my face out there. You also get free food! And don’t be afraid to talk to professors or students. I have never met a Geoscience faculty member who I was uncomfortable talking with. Chatting with other students can also give you a feel of the classes you’re going to take, both the good and the bad.
- What do you most enjoy about Milwaukee?
There’s so much to do, and UWM’s right at the heart of it, plus free bus passes around the city. There are a plethora of museums, libraries, shops and restaurants to visit and enjoy. I’ve grown up near here most of my life, and I’m still discovering new places every day.
- What are your plans after you graduate?
I would hope to go to graduate school to focus specifically in vertebrate paleontology, working under a scientist in that field. After then, I could work for a State or National Geological Survey, a museum, or teach at a university. I’m not sure which would suit me at the moment, but I do know that I want as much field work in as many different places as possible.