Last summer I did an interview with Brain Scoop host Emily Graslie for her new podcast series. It is so cool to find out that it is now released! I shared the story of how I found a new ceratopsian fossil locallity while out in the Kaiparowits Formation in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah. It is one of the most incredible places in the world and has so many amazing fossils!
The Denver Museum of Nature & Science is a diverse place where many people are playing a lot of different roles to accomplish one common mission: to be a catalyst in our community- not only to share our love and understanding of the natural world, but also to ignite that passion for science in our community. Having that sense of purpose in my job and being surrounded by that amazing team makes it bearable to be 3 levels underground all day working in the basement while Denver is teasing outside with sunny, record-breaking 70 degree spring weather in March (when winter really must still be coming?). I'll just leave these facts from NASA about how things have been going, here.
Working in earth science museum collections is all about protecting and preserving data- actual morphological and geochemical data from the fossil itself and the information about where they are from- so that it can contribute to scientific research. I love working in collections because I love the forms of data I get to work with- the GPS coordinates and maps, the witty site names created by the collectors, the geology and stratigraphy details. Getting to see beautiful fossil leaves all day, every day is a nice bonus, too. Collections are huge knowledge bank, full of species waiting to be described and discoveries about life and environments of the past waiting to be made.
To get a fossil leaf to the point that it is ready to be studied by any researcher from around the world, there are a lot of steps that need to happen. The fossil first has to be intentionally and thoughtfully collected by our team in the field, brought back safely to Denver, and the proper paperwork has to be done. Then the fossil has to be prepped in the 3rd floor paleo lab, brought down 5 floors to the basement and curated, input to the database and attached to it's data. Finally, it is stored in the correct place and manner in our state of the art collections center, and is ready for a scientist to further identify, analyze, and photograph it for peer reviewed publication. Facilitating this whole process and being involved in every step along the way is a really rewarding experience. It's pretty fun, too.