CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (WDTV) - West Virginia native Ray Garton has had a passion for fossils since his childhood. He graduated from WVU with two degrees in paleontology and geology.
"It's a job of passion and of love, you do it 24/7 essentially," Garton said.
Since the seventies, Garton has worked as a paleontologist in the mountain state. While there are no dinosaurs in the state, there are plenty of other things to dig up, including fossils of animals and plants that pre-date the dinosaurs, as well as creatures from the last Ice Age.
"We have mammoths and mastodons, and saber-tooth cats and giant sloths," he explained.
Garton has discovered dozens of fossils, including the first saber-tooth cat to be found in the state, and made the Jefferson Ground Sloth (Megalonyx Jeffersonii) the state fossil.
For the past five years, Garton has also helped organize "Walking with Dinosaurs", a hands-on pop-up museum in Harrison County where kids can learn about fossils.
"They don't have to travel to Pittsburgh or the Smithsonian to see these things, they're right here in their own backyard," he said.
According to Garton, the work of paleontologists is important to help make predictions about the future.
"It helps us to make some predictions about climate change," he said.
When asked what the best part of his job is, Garton said, "It's the possibility for discovery. Discovering something new either totally new to science, or at least new to West Virginia."