During his time as a George Washington University paleontologist, Choiniere has been involved in the discovery and naming of 10 new dinosaur species.
How did you find these dinosaurs?
We went to the Gobi [Desert] and spent about four or six weeks camped out there looking for fossils. Basically, you hike everyday looking for fossils coming out of the ground and you dig them up and bring them back to the lab. And bust them out of their rocks.
So they're on the surface?
Little pieces of them come out on the surface. ... Instead of having a gridded small area, we send a lot of people out to walk in a much larger area. If you see a small piece of bone coming out of the ground, you stop and dig there.
Does that mean I could have walked on fossils without knowing?
If you're in the right spot to find those fossils, it's absolutely possible. A lot of our best fossil discoverers aren't trained paleontologists. They're people with sharp eyes.
So once you find a fossil, what next?
There are some kinds of rock that are incredibly tough and hard to remove. That will be rock you can remove with an acid-edging process. And that can take two to three years to do a good job. You basically remove it millimeter by millimeter, and each millimeter takes about three days.
Then how do you name a new species?
There are some people who feel it's very important to get across a sense of place in the name. ... Something I like to do is name a species after a distinctive part of its anatomy. ... Sometimes things are just named for stupid stuff that happens while you're out doing work. ... I changed the name [of one of my discoveries] literally 10 minutes before we submitted the paper just because it took us a while to settle on something that suited the animal well.
- Jacob Demmitt