Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A Warm Welcome to the Wonderful World of Microfossils! Week 1

Hello, blogosphere!

This year's crew of NSF-funded microfossil collections interns would like to take a minute to introduce ourselves before diving into the nitty-gritty of our first week on the job. We will regularly update this blog throughout the summer, as we work our way through revitalizing AMNH's long-neglected microfossil collections.

Now, meet the team:

Courtney is a graduate student at Western Illinois University pursuing a degree in museum studies. This is her second summer working on the Invertebrate Paleontology rehousing project and is excited to be back. She will be returning to the Midwest after this summer to start an internship at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE. After graduating she is hoping to work in natural history collections and is looking forward to what the future holds.

Nicollette is a Bronx native who is no stranger to invertebrate life forms.  While she studied geology at Oberlin College, she had the fortune of studying bivalves, gastropods, and even fire ants. Becuase she has never studied invertbrates that can't be seen with the naked eye, Nicollette looks forward to working in the microfossil lab this summer. Nicollette is especially interested in applying the fossil record to the study of paleoclimate and change over time. She loves the intersection of science and society and hopes to be a part of the discussion of climate change in the future. This fall, she will begin her Masters in geoscience at the University of Arizona (Bear down!).

Katherine (Kat) is a rising senior at Mount Holyoke College, currently studying Geology and English, as well as performing with the Mount Holyoke Symphony orchestra as principal cellist. She is from Laguna Niguel, California - a small town in Orange County - and is excited to get the feel of living in a real city. From the age of 5, she has wanted to be a paleontologist, and her passion for fossils hasn't wavered since. She hopes that the AMNH microfossil internship will bring her one step closer to her goal of being part of a vertebrate fossil prep team.

Shaun recently graduated with a B.S. in Geology from University of Houston and has a strong passion for geology and computers. He has also been working on georeferencing collection data to modernize the museum's databases. He is originally from Houston, TX.

Farallon is very happy to be a part of the microfossil intern team. Next fall she will be going into her third year in the College of Creative Studies at UC Santa Barbara, where she also does research on apicomplexan octopus parasites in the Kuris Lab. She is from New York City, where she lives with her family and four cats.

Rebecca just graduated from Oberlin College, where she studied geology (officially) and a smattering of other subjects, including Javanese music. Originally from Downingtown, PA, Rebecca is excited to explore the "real world". This summer of microfossil curation is actually her second position at AMNH. She's glad to be back. Future plans may include a stint in the National Parks, a fellowship in Indonesia, or anything else that comes her way.

The interns are supervised by the wonderful Bushra Hussaini, whose knowledge of the collections makes this enormous project much more manageable. We also are grateful to Lindsay Jurgielewicz for her help in coordinating the internship, Linda Scalbom for direction in the collections management process, and Ellen Thomas for her microfossil expertise.

After going through the inevitable paperwork that comes with a new job, Bushra gave us a tour of the invertebrate paleontology collections, which include the subset of ostracods and forams that we are working with. We were then each given our own projects. These were overwhelming at first, but we soon settled into a rhythm of writing out new labels, cleaning off dusty old slides, databasing, photographing, and cataloging specimens.

The picture below shows the sorry state some of these slides were in after almost a century of storage. The cardboard of the slide decays and falls into the well with the specimen, and must be cleaned out very carefully with a small paintbrush. The ostracod pictured below is about half a millimeter in length.

Also in our first week, we went on tours of the vertebrate paleontology and anthropology collections. We were able to see some of what goes on behind the scenes at the museum. Preserving collections as extensive as those of AMNH is no small feat; we were able to see the care and thought that goes into collections management (not to mention the shelves full of triceratops skulls, a dinosaur brooding a nest of eggs, an incredibly well-preserved 2,000-year-old Andean carpet, and countless shelves full of incredible anthropological artifacts).


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