Monday, July 6, 2009

The Beginning of the End

After the grueling process of getting our badges and finding our way through the maze that is the twenty plus buildings that make up the American Museum of Natural History, we found ourselves at the doorstep to fossil heaven...the Vertebrate Paleontology Department. Following our teaser tour of halls we will soon become familiar with - and promises of a more in depth tour later, we began our meet and greet with some of the lab and collections staff who we will meet more formally in the coming weeks. In the afternoon, we got the grand tour of the big bone room and fossil fish collection as well as a handling demonstration of fossils from Jeanne Kelly. We were taught the proper techniques on how to pick up, move, and handle type specimens, as well as how to approach other situations regarding our safety - and the fossils - that we may run into while working in the collections. Following our safety lessons, we set up our computer stations to ready ourselves for our day to day work in the upcoming weeks.
On Tuesday morning we met Ivy the Collections Manager of Fossil Fish and the Frick Mammal Collection loan guru. After testing our geometric and engineering skills we managed to set up six work stations in a relatively small area. We realized this will be the only time it will be clean, but we're very proud of our puzzle solving skills - seven heads are better than one and sometimes an eighth!

Cue dramatic music ** and then there was ethafoam. ** We were then enlightened by Ivy about the importance and archival properties of ethafoam. We were then encouraged to become ethafoam ninjas by trial and error but as Ivy says there really is no error, just things she can and will use later in order to send out loans. We lovingly put these "good attempts" into the fail box. We were also introduced to our current frenemy mr. glue gun and feel that the next seven weeks will be a love / hate relationship. Overall, Tuesday was a test to our problem solving skills and we think we did an ok job!

Wednesday was very similar to Tuesday. We were with Ivy and she had us practice specimen moving, label writing, and we had an introduction to the last part of box assembly which includes a shield of cloroplast. Her motto echoed throughout the day, "as tall as necessary as small as possible." We then used trirod, a close relative of ethafoam, to sculpt around a specimen in order to create a secure environment for the specimens so that it may pass the wiggle test. . The day ended with us pulling and picking out our first specimens for the rehousing project.

On Thursday we got a tutorial from Ruth on how to type in element descriptions using excel. We also received a brief introduction to Paleocat, a customized database designed for students and researchers in the field. We are taking the original verbatim card catalog descriptions of the specimens and creating titles that researchers can quickly access to locate their specimens of interest. We will then reformat the descriptions so that there is some sort of consistency throughout the database. We are quickly picking up the paleo-lingo with help from Ruth and Chloe.

That about sums up our first week of training and practice - now its time to explore the city in search for 4th of July festivities.


Mujdey said...

Hey Karen,, seems you're having fun :-) Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Omg You guys rock!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I love hearing about what you guys are up to… lol but my sister works with you(Chloe) isn't she amazing!!!!! She taught me everything I know about your field of work!!! Oh but I have onneee question for you... what do you do on paleocat, like record data? it sounds really cool (Well not like as a toy but that it’s specially designed for you) Well can't wait to read the next post… keep em’ comin!!!! Have fun =)
*lil sis*

PaleoInterns said...

Thanks for the question! For an answer check out the blog published on September 15 and feel free to ask anything else you're curious about.