Magner Career Center Provides a Way for Student to Uncover the Ancient Past

March 7, 2016 | Brooklyn College

BROOKLYN, NY– When senior Anastasia Danilova returned from a 10-day geological dig in South Dakota, made possible through the competitive Magner Career Center stipend, she knew that she would soon be meeting with Marge Magner ’69 to share her discoveries. Danilova could not find the words to express her gratitude to the Center’s namesake, so she presented Magner with one of the fossils she unearthed at the research site.

“She provided me with something extremely amazing,” Danilova says. “Bringing back a fossil was the least I could do. There are not enough people like her in the world. What it meant for me, being so far along—taking academic breaks and even giving up at some points…I hope that one day I’ll be able to do for others what Marge Magner did for me.”

Danilova traveled to South Dakota with scientists from the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) to collect and study the fossilized remains of ammonites, carnivorous aquatic creatures that lived on Earth approximately 240 million years ago. Much of the work was conducted on the property of South Dakota ranchers who granted the researchers permission. She was also able to spend some time with Neal L. Larson, president of Larson Paleontology Unlimited, LLC, and Dr. Neil Landman, curator-in-charge of the department of paleontology at AMNH, with whom she was able to view the fossils of a new species of triceratops discovered by professional fossil hunter John Carter in 2012.

Most important for Danilova was the ability to connect her research of these ancient creatures to contemporary concerns. “These organisms went through a period of stress and didn’t make it. So we’re looking at the conditions then, in atmosphere and climate, and comparing them to conditions now. You gain an entirely new perspective about what might happen to current species—including us—and how we might prevent catastrophe.”

Danilova, originally from Moscow, is a transfer student from New York University majoring in earth and environmental sciences and mathematics. She did not recognize the former as a passion until she took an introductory course here taught by lecturer Matthew Garb. As difficult as it can be, globally, for women to break into the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, Danilova says that from her perspective, the women at Brooklyn College have made great strides.

“We had a field course in Death Valley this past winter session in which the class consisted of eleven women and two men,” she says. “So I think we’re rocking at this field here at Brooklyn College. Overall, everyone here has been really supportive. It’s a really great atmosphere.”

Mainly, Danilova is grateful for the field experience she gained as a result of this project. “The opportunities for observation and participation are invaluable,” she says. “As a little girl, I always collected rocks and things, but I never dreamed that I would become an actual scientist.”

This is especially true because Danilova is a non-traditional student, coming back to college after having taken some time off to raise a family. She is the mother of a three-year-old girl, but has the support of her husband and entire family. Despite the fact that, to complete her research, she had to climb harrowing cliffs hundreds of feet in the air using only footholes carved into the sides of these structures, and encountering a couple of rattlesnakes, Danilova says the most challenging part of her time in South Dakota was being away from her daughter. “Admittedly, I was a little worried about how I was going to manage it all, but fortunately, it has all worked out for the best.”

Danilova is so impressed with her academic experiences at Brooklyn College that she plans to apply to graduate school at the college. “I really like the [earth and environmental sciences] department. Everyone is very welcoming. They really want students to flourish.”

President of the Brooklyn College Geology Society, Danilova presented her work at the national conference of the Geological Society of America in Baltimore, from Nov. 1–4.

For over a decade, the Magner Career Center has been preparing students for the global marketplace by providing opportunities for them to gain the skills necessary to distinguish themselves from the competition—whether through internships, résumé counseling, mock interviews, alumni mentoring or stipends for unpaid internships and study abroad, all of which are made possible through the generosity of Brooklyn College alumni and friends. You can support the center through charitable donations made to the Brooklyn College Foundation, specifying the Magner Career Center as the fund designation.

Contact: Ernesto Mora / 718-951-6377 / emora@brooklyn.cuny.edu