Clarissa the dinosaur named after San Clemente ‘Dinogirl’ who helped uncover it

Having a dinosaur named after you at age 12 comes with perks and responsibilities.

For Clarissa Koos, now 16, of San Clemente, it has meant camping with her parents, Chuck and Liz, in a remote, fossil-rich no man’s land known as Hell Creek, Mont., every summer for as long as a week. The family has done it four summers in a row.

It means working with professional paleontologists under often extreme 90-degree conditions, a girl among adults, unearthing prehistoric remains and carefully preserving them.

It meant being featured in a children’s book, “Dinogirl,” published by Massachusetts school teacher Denise Porcello. The book, which Clarissa illustrated, tells how she helped unearth the remains of a dinosaur that lived 66 million years ago in what are now the Badlands of Montana.

Being Dinogirl also means visits to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and the Burke Museum in Seattle – lectures, meetings with the lecturers, taking university-level classes in scientific illustration, volunteering at the Burke Museum’s annual Dino Days and sharing her scientific passions with visitors.

In 2019, it will mean being present at the Burke when the 40-foot-long dinosaur named Clarissa – rebuilt from bones found in Montana and artificial ones – goes on display.

“It’s pretty special,” she said. “It’s just kind of, like, weird! I never expected anything like that to happen.”

“We never thought in our wildest dreams we would be out digging up dinosaurs,” Liz Koos said.

Clarissa’s infatuation with dinosaurs dates to preschool, playing with dinosaur toys and reading dinosaur books, her mother said. And no, Clarissa never was a fan of the TV dinosaur Barney.

As she and her keen interest in fossils grew, Clarissa caught the attention of scientists at the Natural History Museum at lectures and functions. She attended the museum’s Dino Camp for three summers. In 2012, at 11, she visited the museum’s dig site in…

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