Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Week 8: Then and Now, Final Post

Women, for centuries, have been integral to the science, study, and conservation of invertebrate paleontology/zoology. However, until recently, they were rarely acknowledged for their work and incredible contributions to their respective fields. Female trailblazers of natural history and science include Mary Anning, Libbie Hyman, Mary Leakey, Patricia Kelley, and Susan Kidwell, to name only a few. All the interns would like to acknowledge and put the spotlight on two of today's trailblazers, Ellen Thomas and Bushra Hussaini, who have led this microfossil preservation and conservation project at the AMNH.

Morgan was thrilled to have worked with Ellen for eight weeks
Ellen Thomas

Early on, Ellen was interested in the sciences, but thought about chemistry and biology, not geology or paleontology. Then she went to Utrecht University (The Netherlands) information days in 1968 to look at options in the sciences, and was told that women do not study geology. That was the fire and drive for her to decide to become a geologist. She never looked back, earning a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Geology, then a Ph.D. studying benthic foraminifera. For the next 35 years or so, Ellen has studied microfossils to make major advances in the field of paleoceanography, which eventually led her to the AMNH. To us interns, Ellen is the "foram expert" and we take every Tuesday to absorb her knowledge and admire her passion for the historic foraminifera and ostracod collections for the benefit of future scientists.

Sam and Bushra enjoying the spectacular view over Central Park West.
Bushra Hussaini

Travelling with her father in the northwestern parts of Pakistan developed Bushra's love for mountains and nature. However, it was not until she got involved with rocks, minerals, and mapping at the University of Karachi did she passionately pursue her Bachelor's and Master's in Earth and Environmental Sciences while being the only woman to graduate in the top 10 students of her class. Immigrating to the United States in 1984, Bushra found a job working as a research assistant at Lamont Doherty Geological Observatory. She eventually ended up working at the AMNH as a Senior Scientific Assistant and has been managing the Fossil Invertebrate collections since 1997. We all consider Bushra to be kindhearted, patient, understanding, intelligent, and witty. She has shown all the interns what it means to be a respected professional and mentor.

Today, four more female trailblazers have made their mark at the AMNH. Lindsay, Morgan, Brittney, and Claudia each have bright futures and inevitably will rise to the top of their respected field of study. It has been a pleasure to work with all of them.

Acknowledged invertebrate paleontologists on the steps of the AMNH during the early 1900s and today's stars making their mark 100 years later.

Week 6: More than Microfossils

Working on collections that haven't been looked at in nearly 100 hundred years always comes with challenges, and sometimes even some creepy crawlies. The collection previously used wooden boxes to store slides containing micro-fossils and these boxes allowed, and welcomed, some unwanted and unexpected critters of the arthropod variety to set up camp next to our micro-fossils.

This was found in a box of miscellaneous slides by Sam while rehousing specimens. The intruder, identified as a carpet beetle, was found alive scampering away across the table. 

This creepy crawly was found while Brittney was rehousing slides. There were two of these mysterious web-like cocoons on one slide, and several throughout a study collection. It appears to have a leg, possibly molted, of unknown origin dangling from the cocoon.   

This ostracod, Cythereis asperima, from the Schmidt 1939 collection was not only fastened onto the slide by glue, but cob webs too! There were nearly ten slides that exhibited evidence of arachnid presence.  

These intruders of creepy crawlers frequent museum collections, especially if the collection isn't properly cared for. Finding these on our slides and in our collection reiterates the importance of this project. Specimen preservation, and collection managing have changed significantly since these microfossils were first accessioned. For example, the reason why so many ostracods of the Schmidt, 1939 collection were covered with spider webs is because the glue used to secure the specimen to the slide is organic and apparently attracted spiders. In order to remedy this widely accepted use of organic glue in museum collections, the specimens must be cleaned and moved to fresh slides, and the old slide is discarded to prohibit any more unwanted guests.  

As time continues our methods and processes of collection management will continue to advance, allowing museum collections such as the AMNH microfossils, to be preserved and safe for years to come.  

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Week 5: Day at the Museum

We've had a lot of adventures here at the museum so far! All of the interns have been learning and developing new skills and tackling some pretty intimidating challenges.

Lindsay calmly gets her work done, and Sam never loses his cool. Claudia handles the pressure worst of all.

For example, Lindsay, Sam and Claudia were given a collection of Permian fusulinids from the late Paleozoic. This collection included over 500 slides!

The collection needed re-housing, entry into the database and lots of imaging! Everyone gained a few new grey hairs, but were very proud of the finished products.

A light microscope image of the holotype, Pseudoschwagerina vilcanotensis.
Another challenge for the interns is CT Scanning. This amazing technology allows us to create 3D images of our microfossils and see the outer shell and internal structure at great resolution.

Processing these files can be slow, but Morgan finds plenty of coffee helps get the job done.

However, you can't beat that amazing view!

 Top: Bulimina rectospinata Bottom: Globorotalia menardi

The work that we are doing at AMNH is very important for the preservation of the collections and for scientists interested in microfossils around the world. And if stress ever builds up too much, we can always take advantage of our employee discount at the museum store!

Swag modeled by Brittany: AMNH fleece jacket and T. rex-embroidered AMNH scarf!