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College student finds triceratops skull in North Dakota

A University of California Merced student had the experience of a lifetime finding a 65-million-year-old fossil.
Harrison Duran, a fifth-year biology student, discovered a Triceratops skull during a paleontology dig in North Dakota. (Photo courtesy University of California Merced)

HELL CREEK FORMATION, N.D. (WTHR) — A University of California Merced student had the experience of a lifetime finding a 65-million-year-old fossil.

Harrison Duran is studying biology at the California school. As a longtime fan of dinosaurs, he decided to take a course on the history of dinosaurs his freshman year. He furthered his interest outside the classroom by going on a two-week digging trip with a Mayville State biology professor Michael Kjelland.

Kjelland is an experienced excavator who crossed paths with Duran, then teamed up with him to create a nonprofit dedicated to research in various fields of paleontology.

On a recent trip to rural North Dakota, the team dug up a partial triceratops skull that had been there for 65 million years.

"I can’t quite express my excitement in that moment when we uncovered the skull," Duran said.

They named the skull Alice after the owner of the land where they found it.

After protecting the skull with foil and plaster, they put it in a box, wrapped in a memory foam mattress, and eventually got it to Kjelland's lab.

Duran plans to return to North Dakota to continue research on the skull and preparing it to go on display.

Kjelland hopes to rotate locations where the skull will be on display. For now, they'll create a cast of the skull. Duran hopes to take the school back to school with him, and ultimately wants to bring the real thing to campus.