Dr. Bolortsetseg Minjin, noted paleontologist and educator, has been selected as the third recipient of the Raymond M. Alf Award for Excellence in Paleontological Research and Education. The award honors a paleontologist who demonstrates exceptional achievement both in original scientific research, as well as in education and outreach at the primary and secondary school (K-12) levels. Dr. Bolortsetseg is recognized in particular as founder of the Institute for the Study of Mongolian Dinosaurs (ISMD), whose mission is “To strengthen geoscience education in Mongolia, conserve Mongolia’s fossil heritage, promote Mongolian paleontology, and edify the next generation of Mongolian paleontologists.”
Dr. Bolortsetseg’s passion is saving Mongolia’s dinosaurs from being illegally excavated and sold worldwide, as well as inspiring the next generation of Mongolian paleontologists. Dr. Bolortsetseg was born in the capital of Mongolia (Ulanbaatar), and her father was one of the first paleontologists in the country. Her early exposure to fossils eventually led to a master’s degree in paleontology. In 1996, her father was invited to participate in an American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) research expedition to the Gobi Desert to hunt for dinosaurs and other fossils. Dr. Bolortsetseg was hired as a cook, but in her free time she searched for fossils and was very successful. This earned her the admiration of AMNH paleontologists, who invited her to come to New York and study for her PhD through a joint program with City University of New York and the AMNH.
Now Dr. Bolortsetseg is leading her country in the repatriation of poached dinosaurs, such as a skeleton of Tarbosaurus, Mongolia’s cousin to Tyrannosaurus, that was sent home from the United States in 2012. Bolortsetseg is also educating her fellow citizens on why Mongolia’s dinosaur heritage should be preserved. “Some Mongolians see dinosaur fossils as a commodity instead of a source of scientific knowledge and point of national pride. The ISMD is changing this through educational outreach and the repatriation of poached fossils,” commented Dr. Bolortsetseg. To do so, she has spent the last two summers touring the Gobi Desert in a Winnebago donated to the ISMD by the AMNH that serves as a movable museum. Thus, she has exposed hundreds of children to Mongolian dinosaurs such as Velociraptor, while educating on why these fossils should remain in Mongolia. Her ultimate goal is to establish a permanent museum at the Flaming Cliffs, where some of the first dinosaur eggs were discovered in 1922.
Dr. Bolortsetseg will receive her award and speak at the 25th Annual Peccary Society Dinner hosted by the Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology on the Webb campus on Friday evening, October 20.
[photos courtesy of the Mongolian Dinosaur Institute]