2021 Incoming Grad Series: Preston Willard Rukewe Dozie Itie

by Chava Nerenberg, Graduate Programming Assistant
Wednesday, September 15, 2021 7:30 AM

The 2021 Incoming Grad Series continues, featuring backstories and fun facts about 8 students who are part of the entering class at UCSB.

Preston Willard Rukewe Dozie Itie is entering the Master's program in the Earth Science Department. An aspiring paleontologist, he has lived and worked around the US building skills for this career. Read on to learn more about his background, why he chose UCSB, and some surprising fun facts--including how he survived an accident at a paleontology dig! 



Preston is a black Nigerian-American and the oldest of three siblings. He told us his family is from Imo State in Nigeria and he was born in Dallas, Texas, but moved to California in seventh grade. Preston says he never saw himself as a scholar when he was younger, but realized he was extremely interested in prehistoric animals and how they evolved over time. He completed his undergraduate degree at San Diego State University in geology and also took biology courses. At San Diego State, he was the Vice-President and Historian of the Black Student Science Organization and the Historian of the Student African American Brotherhood. After graduating in 2016, he worked as a paleomonitor for multiple environmental companies. He also worked in education, did gig work, and became involved in the LA chapter of the Nigerian organization Umo Igbo Unite.

Preston has also volunteered at many interesting sites to build his career in paleontology, including the Museum of the Rockies, Lubbock Lake Landmark, the Denver Museum of Science, and the La Brea Tar Pits. He also interned at the Mammoth Site in Hot Springs, South Dakota, the Wyoming Dinosaur Center, and at Duke Cultural Resources Management. 


Preston chose UCSB because of its focus on mentorship in paleontology. He told us that he spoke with Dr. Andy Wyss, whom he says supported his research interests and offered excellent mentorship in research. Preston told us this mentorship will be key to better understanding the field of paleontology and starting to build his career. 



Preston told us he is very interested in researching prehistoric vertebrates, particularly archosaurs (dinosaurs, crocodiles, birds, and pterosaurs) and mammals. He is particularly fascinated by obscure or "out there" animals such as armadillosauchus, terror birds, therizinosaur, bear-dogs, procoptodon, early synapsids, giant and marine sloths, giant otters, and other obscure animals. He hopes to conduct research that focuses on morphology, ecology and biomechanics, and may also wish to explore dental weariness, phlyogentics, and isotope data. 



Preston told us he is a gamer and particularly enjoys fighting games and games that allow him to raise monsters. He says it gives him great joy to see his favorite prehistoric animals represented in games. He also enjoys watching anime in his spare time.

He likes to exercise and is planning to stay in shape at UCSB. He was a wrestler for a year in high school and hopes to work out with the wrestling team at UCSB. He told us he also used to play football, but was one of the worst players on the team.

As an aspiring paleontologist, Preston has made multiple discoveries of fossils, including an Allosauraus tooth and other unidentified mammal teeth, turtles, and a giant short-faced bear tooth within a mammoth skull. He told us paleontology can be exciting and even dangerous: he once fell off a mountain during a paleontology dig and wasn't found until 10 hours later. He had to crawl a third of the way back and be carried out on a stretcher. Fortunately, this hasn't dimmed his enthusiasm.

Welcome, Preston!

Be sure to subscribe to the GradPost and check back each day until the start of classes for the continuation of our Incoming Grad Series.