By Karol McQueary, President, Southern California Paleontological Society
Good news! California now has an official state dinosaur, as of September 23rd, when Governor Jerry Brown signed AB1540, making Augustynolophus morrisi an official symbol of our great state! This impressive hadrosaur had a tremendous outpouring of support and publicity, all of which played a part in the passage of this bill. Certainly no other dinosaur in history has had its own Twitter account and Facebook page. But the real story is the part our young people played in making this happen.
“Dinosaurs are cool, and highlighting a dinosaur that has such a deep connection to our state will stimulate interest in paleontology and science overall, particularly with children,” said Assembly member Richard Bloom, the author of this bill. We couldn’t agree more!
Our students DID think this was cool, and they both supported this bill and learned about the legislative process as they circulated petitions, wrote persuasive letters, and drew posters urging a “yes” vote for Auggie. The fifth grade classes from Chapman Elementary School, a Los Angeles Unified public school in Gardena, sent a stack of letters of support to Sacramento. They also sent posters, which were on display on the third floor of the Capitol building in Sacramento during the month of July. Their arguments were well thought out and eloquent. I believe that some of these young people might have a future in politics!
Aubrey, a student at Chapman, stated, “Another reason why I think the Augustynolophus morrisi dinosaur should be our California state dinosaur is because if we do, then kids will want to find out more about the dinosaur and study more. It could lead them to be inventors, or they could find new plants or animals or new medicines. This dinosaur is a lesson to all of us. It’s our dinosaur. We can’t let this dinosaur go to waste!”
Young members of the Southern California Paleontological Society joined the effort, also learning about how a bill becomes a law and how to take part in the legislative process. They presented information about the bill to their various school classes, circulated petitions, and made their voices heard as well. The senators certainly heard from their young constituents.
As a step in the process, each bill goes to a committee prior to being read to the entire legislative body. On July 11, the Senate Governmental Organization Committee heard arguments in favor of this bill. Speaking in favor were Dr. Luis Chiappe (Vice president of Research and Collections at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County & Director of the Dinosaur Institute), Karol McQueary (President of the Southern California Paleontological Society), and society member and 6th grade student Llandyn Lubs. Llandyn, who was there with his parents, Brian and Stacy Lubs and sister Quynn, first asked the senators to repeat the dinosaur’s name after he pronounced it for them, stating that he didn’t want them to vote for something they couldn’t pronounce. That got a laugh, but the senators did as they were instructed, and they properly pronounced the dino’s name. After his presentation and questions from the committee, Llandyn and family posed for a photo in the Assembly Chamber with Assembly member Bloom and were treated to a private tour of the Capitol building.
All in all, it was a great experience for California students as they took part in helping a bill become a law. They were fully invested in the process, and we anticipate that when they see a picture of Augustynolophus – in a book, or at the museum, or on the internet, they will know that they played a part in making this happen.
Read a little about the history of this effort here