It’s not a phone call a college president expects — “We found a fossil on your property. We think it’s a woolly mammoth tooth,” but that is just what happened to NCC President Dr. Hartog this spring. Still in his first year as President at the time, Hartog knew that he should expect the unexpected, but, “…a fossilized mammoth tooth isn’t something they teach you to expect when you are preparing to become a college president!”
Justin Blauwet, DGR Engineering technician, was on campus looking over a lift station project for the City of Sheldon when he saw the fossil resting on top of a pile of dirt. It had been excavated for the ongoing project several days before. Blauwet’s keen eye, natural curiosity, and love for fossilized remains took over.
Blauwet brought the large fossil back to the DGR offices in Rock Rapids, where the relic was measured and weighed: 11.2 pounds and 11 inches.
Officials at DGR, the City of Sheldon, and the College reported the find to Tiffany Adrian, a paleontology repository instructor and the Special Collections Manager at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. Adrian confirmed it was, in fact, a woolly mammoth tooth fossil.
The fossil was brought back to NCC’s campus for a short period of time so employees could see it, but College officials have decided to semi-permanently loan the fossil to the Sheldon Historical Society in order for community members to have access to it and easily view it.
When fossils are dug up, they are naturally saturated with water. They need time to be properly dried and preserved correctly. The mammoth tooth made its public debut during the City of Sheldon’s 150th birthday celebration in September. You can now view the fossil at the Sheldon Historical Society during regular business hours.
“Since NCC is the public college for the area communities, NCC is happy to display the tooth in the Sheldon Prairie Museum as a semi-permanently loaned display,” said Hartog. “This way, everyone from across our service area can come to the museum to see and appreciate this artifact.”
Meanwhile, Den Hartog Industries of Hospers provided a 3-D Image so that Ryan Steffen, an NCC industrial design technology instructor, could 3-D print a detailed, life-sized replica of the fossil.
Hartog observed, “An engineering technician, a neighboring city, a local museum, a plastics manufacturer, NCC, and a mammoth—all successfully partnered together in this dynamic and unexpected way.”
For more information about educational opportunities at NCC, either on campus or online, call 712-324-5061, 800-352-4907, or visit nwicc.edu.
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Photo: Left to Right: Dr. John Hartog, NCC President; Justin Blauwet, DGR Engineering technician