Local Eagle Scout Bret Potter is on his way to the Judith River Dinosaur Institute this summer as part of the 2019 National Eagle Scout Association’s (NESA’s) World Explorer Program. “Through the BSA’s STEM Initiative, NESA selects Eagle Scouts to participate in field experiments in exotic places,” reports BSA. For 2019, fifteen Eagles were chosen to be astrobiologists, biologists, ornithologists, paleontologists, and speleologists.

Bret Potter, of Troop 92 in Northridge and Venture Crew 1956 in Mission Hills, CA, and currently a student at Union College in Schenectady, NY, will be part of the paleontology program. Chosen from a competitive field of Eagle Scouts, his application included an essay and video on why he was the right fit for the program.  His interest in paleontology began as a child with many trips to the La Brea Tar Pits and Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (NHM), the Western Science Center (WSC) in Hemet, CA, and other institutions.

Bret became a volunteer at the NHM in 2016, as a Citizen Scientist in a crowdsourcing project to record biodiversity in Los Angeles. After taking part in a bioblitz, in which people gather at a set location for several hours to record plant and animal life, he decided to organize a bioblitz for his Eagle Scout Project. 

O’Melveney Park, the second largest park in Los Angeles at 672 acres, was chosen for the site. With 45 volunteers, 345 observations made, and 143 species recorded, valuable scientific information was gathered for the NHM, the project’s beneficiary.

In addition to earning the rank of Eagle, Bret was awarded BSA’s William T. Hornaday Badge for environmental conservation.  Troop 92 was awarded a William T. Hornaday Unit Certificate as over 60% of registered troop members participated in Bret’s project.

In 2018, Bret went from documenting contemporary species in a local park to working with Pleistocene fossils at the WSC.  As a volunteer, his primary task was 3-D imaging mastodon and other fossils, plus working with visiting paleontologists and cataloging fossils.

Now in his first year at Union College, Bret is planning to double major in Geology and Environmental Science.  “My goal is to get a graduate degree in paleontology,” Bret commented. “The NESA World Explorer program blends my passions, scouting and paleontology.” He looks forward to trying his hand at fieldwork this summer with the Judith River Dinosaur Institute’s Little Snowy Mountain Dinosaur Project in Montana.