ARLINGTON -- Some people look at the Archosaur site - a 2,000-acre tract of land in far North Arlington - and see nothing more than a muddy pit in the middle of a field, but friends say Dr. Derek Main saw an adventure.
"The thrill of the discovery, the ability to be able to promote knowledge -- I think that's kind of what got him up in the morning," said Nathan Van Vranken, a volunteer and protégé of Main.
Main and volunteers dug up rare fossils of crocodiles, turtles, and even dinosaurs. He died suddenly at his home Wednesday, less than a month after receiving his doctorate degree from the University of Texas at Arlington. The cause of his death is undetermined.
It has shocked volunteers at the Archosaur site, some of who attended UT-Arlington, where Main taught courses on earth history and dinosaurs. Van Vranken saw Main as both a teacher and an approachable mentor.
"If it wasn't for Derek, I wouldn't be here," he said. “He was just one of those everyday guys. And that's one of the reasons why I liked hanging out with him, because he was just someone you could actually relate to."
Van Vranken said Main wanted people to visit the site and see how paleontologists really work. It was part of his mission in spreading understanding and promoting science to the world.
"Derek was the glue that held the whole project together," he said.
According to his obituary, Main also taught courses at Northlake College and Tarrant County College.
He leaves behind a fiancee, mother, brother, and many friends who say they're now bound together by the desire to keep people at the Archosaur Site exploring and digging for the knowledge he sought his entire life.