Friday, July 10, 2009

Not for the Squeamish!

We began our week at our computers with our continued work of element descriptions. We’ve started the actual description part of the data entry and are slowly working our way through the numerous abbreviations and terminology. We are learning that the most important part in building a database is consistency.

On Tuesday we were introduced to Chelsea, a former intern from last summer, who is the queen of georeferencing. She introduced us to the many ways of retrieving data to fill in the multiple gaps that make up the locality information. Chelsea explained that there are many outlets for finding information. These include anything from Google Earth to Paleocat, and even the more formal sources like journal articles and various books. She encouraged us to utilize the archives at the AMNH and if needed to be creative when looking for locality data. By the afternoon we were working on our individual tasks of finding country, state, and county when given only the locality name. This task seemed daunting at first, especially when the locality said only “Alaska”, however, we were told to keep our scope in mind and not to be discouraged…you can’t get every one.

The middle of the week brought our final re-housing training with Ivy. She gave us an introduction to proper labeling techniques. She explained the differences between holotype and genotype labels (holotype: specific level type specimen and genotype: generic level type specimen) and how to go about writing citations. We also learned about mylar and how it’s used to preserve and protect labels. We also discussed how to fill out c

ondition reports for each specimen that we are re-housing. After this, we were officially on our own to pull, re-house, label, and replace each specimen. Teamwork is an ever

important theme.

Thursday the students turned into the teachers! With Ivy gone, it was now our turn to train Carl…not that he needed a lot of training. Our task was to teach him everything we had learned up to this point. He proved to be an excellent student, taking notes the entire time. After his lesson, he left us to our own and we continued our re-housing. The afternoon brought our first department tour of the Mammalogy department. The tour was given by the Collections Manager, Dr. Darrin Lunde.

You may ask what we saw on this tour… indeed we saw mammals but we also got a glimpse of the long history the AMNH has to offer. We were shown the original library, the attic turret that faces 77th street, the alcohol room (not what it sounds like, these are specimens preserved in alcohol), along with the bones from elephant, hippo, and other mammals. Dr. Lunde talked about the different management techniques that mammalogists encounter in comparison to vertebrate paleontologists. We were surprised to learn that each department, while different, has many similarities when overcoming obstacles.

We ended the week with continued re-housing. Our first major complication arose while pulling specimens we uncovered fossils embedded in plaster that took up the space of an entire drawer. Unfortunately there won’t be any room to re-house them traditionally, so our creativity comes into play once again. More to come on this issue!

We’re gradually becoming more comfortable in our abilities to create these re-housing boxes, and the process is starting to go much more smoothly!

Below are before and after re-housing shots!

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