Dane Johnson

Dane Johnson
Paleontology Lab and Field Specialist

Dane was first introduced to paleontology at a very young age through the BBC special, Walking with Dinosaurs. Serendipitously, the skeleton of ‘Big Al’ that inspired him on television would meet him again at Museum of the Rockies, where he began his paleontology career as a work-study student. Under the guidance of Ellen-Thérèse Lamm, Dane would propel his understanding of the paleohistology process through this opportunity.

Dane graduated Summa Cum Laude from Montana State University in the fall of 2022. In addition to his work at the museum, Dane was able to volunteer in the Varricchio Family Paleontology Laboratory, preparing dinosaur bones from Egg Mountain and recovering new microfossils from the Cretaceous Blackleaf Formation. Dane was also president of the MSU Dead Lizard Society, a paleontology club dedicated to making paleontological resources, research, and opportunities accessible to MSU students.

Dane’s field experiences have taken him far and wide across the Cretaceous period in Montana, recovering specimens from crocodile teeth the size of sand grains, to large dinosaurs like Triceratops. It was through fieldwork with Museum of the Rockies that Dane discovered his passion for field techniques and operations, which would help him lead excavations with Paleontology Lab and Field Manager Lee Hall.

As Lab and Field Specialist, Dane has the opportunity to document and excavate specimens during the field season. When back in the lab, Dane makes thin slices of dinosaur bones, allowing researchers to observe their microstructure. Dane’s goal is to further refine these techniques and share his passions for creativity, organization, and safety, inviting museum guests and the public abroad to appreciate these behind-the-scenes processes in paleontology.


Allen, Harrison, Lafaye, George B., Johnson, Dane D., and Varricchio, David J., 2022. It’s the little things in life: Using microfossils to expand the known vertebrate census of the Cretaceous Blackleaf Formation in southwest Montana. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, SVP Program and Abstracts Book, 2022: 61-62

Turner, Limerick, Austin, Gianna, Johnson, Dane, Hannebaum, Zakaria, and Varricchio, David, 2023. Walking on eggshells - Bone modification and ‘dinoturbation’ at Egg Mountain, MT USA. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, SVP Program and Abstracts Book, 2023: 427.

Contact Dane via email or 406.994.3655.