Monday, July 27, 2009

Whooo We're Half Way There....

Meeting Our Quota
This week we are continuing to work at a steady pace in order to tackle the type specimen rehousing project. Although we are making substantial progress every day, we have decided that setting a daily quota for ourselves would immensely help us to reach our goal within the remaining four weeks.

Using a large flat bed cart that Carl lent us as well as some spare carts, we were able to move many specimens at once to our work space. The carts full of specimens act as a visual reminder to help us with managing our time throughout the day. It's also reassuring to see the carts with specimens that have been successfully rehoused, these completed specimens provide us with motivation and a sense of accomplishment.

Georeferencing and Element Descriptions
Georeferencing continues to be a daunting yet exciting task for all of us. Everyone’s pace is dependent on the difficulty of their locality; the localities that threaten to break our one hour rule include Mongolia, India, and Pakistan. Through this entire process we have come across some interesting localities that prove just how old our collection is, like USSR and Persia for example. With each week we are finding out just how useful the card catalogues are, even the smallest amount of information can be the missing link in our difficult search. In the unfortunate case that the card does not contain any more information we realize that only a certain amount of time can be spent on the location of each specimen, and so we move on.

Element descriptions are a repetitive but rather necessary task. Most of us are over half way through our assigned drawers, and feel confident that we are close to completing this part of the summer project.

Tour of the Ornithology Department

The Department of Ornithology here at the AMNH has the largest collection of bird skins (meaning the skin and feathers) in the world. It seems that this collection could hardly be lacking much. Here we were given the privilege of seeing Bald Eagles, Elf Owls which were miniature in comparison to the Giant Eagle Owls, Toucans, Hornbills and many more.

Evolutionary biology seems to be a large aspect of the Ornithology collection. A clear depiction of this can be seen in the dramatically beautiful colorings of these sparrows from Mexico and South America; each color representing a different geographic region.

One of the most interesting things that Dr. Sweet brought to our attention was the shallow pits found in the ulna of birds. These ridges or pits indicate where a series of quills had once been attached to the bone.

During our tour we were able to see an artist paint detailed images of birds for a field guide, using not much more than the skins from the collection. Further along the hidden staircases and long corridors we came across the osteo prep lab for the Ornithology Department. Similar to the tour of the Mammology Department, we also had the pleasure of experiencing Ornithology's alcohol room. Instead of three large Apes, this time we saw three large preserved Casuaries. During the tour we were lucky enough to see the Audubon room (which is temporarily closed to the public), an extremely beautiful room exhibiting original paintings by John James Audubon and his sons. At the far end of the Audubon room we came upon a room containing bird nests and eggs, many of which were stored in vintage containers like old chocolate boxes, old battery boxes, and shotgun shell boxes.

Although the content of the ornithology collection may differ from that of the paleontology collection, there are quite a few things that we have in common. The numerous volumes of localities, and the process they use to organize their data is very similar to what we have seen here in the Vertebrate Paleo. Department.

On Friday during rehousing we worked on our first rodent and first carnivore... an exciting change from the usual horse skull. With each day it becomes easier and easier to solve unique problems. In some cases new drawers must be made in order to maximize the amount of storage space in the cabinets. We have come across some interesting specimens that have been listed as both holotypes and genotypes or sometimes even cotypes... but with the help of Carl we have sorted out most of these issues. Slowly but surely we are bringing ourselves up to date with all of the different type lingo. Our confidence grows each week regarding the progress we have made so far, setting a pace that is consistent and allows for us to produce quality work. Everyone has developed their own techniques which are all working extremely well. By the end of this week we successfully rehoused the intended number of specimens and are confident that our pace will steadily increase.

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