August 9, 2022 Local Stories in and Around St. Joseph, Illinois

Homer resident digs his passion of paleontology

Earlier this year, Homer resident and Augustana College sophomore Quinn Powers gave a Youth TED talk.


A TED talk is a talk sponsored by TED Conferences, which is posted online for free. The company believes ideas are worth spreading.


A Youth TED talk is focused at middle school and high school students and done by a youth innovator.


Powers gave his talk at the Putnam Museum in Davenport, Iowa. His talk focused on his love for paleontology, while Powers also challenged the audience to find their passion and follow it.


Powers’ passion is paleontology. This past summer he was selected to be a World Explorer Paleontologist by the National Eagle Scout Association scholarship program. The program is open to any Eagle Scout between the ages of 18 to 25. The initial application to the program is a short essay. Finalists then publish a short video explaining why they are the best candidate. Powers was selected and worked at the Judith River Dinosaur Institute in Montana.


Powers said he found the experience amazing.


“Considering the specific circumstances required for fossilization to occur, it’s incredible that anything is preserved,” he said. “And yet, we have discovered thousands of fossils, and there are thousands more for us to discover.”


Powers said he loves how fossils tell the stories of creatures that used to inhabit the planet.


“Paleontology is like a puzzle where first you have to find the pieces before you can put them together,” he said. “I want to help solve this great puzzle and contribute to our understanding in whatever way I can.”

Powers spent five weeks working in the field, where he found the most challenging part was dealing with campers that he helped excavate fossils. Powers said some of the campers came to the field not realizing the work it would actually take to dig up fossils.


The most rewarding part of his internship is when the group discovered a new bone.


“The other intern, a camper, and I discovered part of a stegosaurus plate during the first week in the field,” he said. “The experience of discovering a bone is incredible. We were the first things to see that bone in around 150 million years.”


Powers said digging up fossils is a much slower process than people assume. Some days, nothing was found despite digging for several hours.

The rarity of finding a bone, however, made it even more rewarding for Powers.


“Being the first person to see the fossil in millions of years is a special feeling,” he said.


The internship was not just digging in the field. Powers also learned how to take a bone from the group and get it ready for presentation. Powers is using what he learned to teach other Augustana students how to prepare bones.


Powers said he was grateful for the internship because it taught him he really does love paleontology.


“It has been an interest of mine for most of my life, but I haven’t had a chance to do it myself,” he said. “Now that I’ve had that opportunity, I am even more passionate about it.”


Powers’ passion led to him presenting about his internship in classrooms and with his TED talk. Powers said it is fun presenting about the internship because people are interested in the topic.


“I enjoy teaching people about paleontology because there is a lot of interesting stuff to teach them about, and in my experience, kids are the most excited to learn about it,” he said. “These kids were eager to learn and showed interest in both the fossils and the process of their preparation.”


Powers would have never had the experience at the Judith River Dinosaur Institute unless he was an Eagle Scout.

Powers became an Eagle Scout in 2016. Powers said it was a long journey to earning the coveted rank.


“In a sense, you spend your entire scouting career building up the necessary skills for Eagle,” he said. “In addition, fulfilling the requirements for Eagle Scout takes a significant amount of time between earning the merit badges, serving in a leadership position in your troop and completing the Eagle Scout project.”


Powers revitalized an area at the Homer United Methodist Church for his Eagle Scout Project. He added a fence to hide garbage cans, expanded and mulched the picnic area and replaced an old table. He also added a wheelchair accessible table to the deck next to the picnic area.


“It was very rewarding when I finally completed the rank of Eagle after all the work I’d put into it,” Powers said.


Powers said he enjoyed the activities and the skills he learned in scouts and would recommend people join their local troop. Not only so they can participate in the activities but also for the life lessons they will learn.


“One of the biggest things scouting taught me,” he said, “is how to live my life.”

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