Thursday, July 30, 2015

Research Paper Outcome

While my role in the lab did not have a direct outcome, my work did contribute to a much larger project that the lab was focusing on. Susan’s work primarily focuses on climate change, and comparing how Earth used to look to now. These fossils also allow scientists to piece together parts of the puzzle that is the earth’s history. Through examining these insect fossils, paleontologists can determine the climate at various points throughout prehistory. This then gives them a more comprehensive image of past flora and fauna. By knowing what was capable of living then, scientists can predict what future life on Earth will look like based on the increase in climate. My work was important to the lab because it made the jobs of scientists just a bit easier. They now have a collection of fossils identified and cataloged, making it easier to access and study them. By having them digitized, other scientists from around the world can also study them, making their jobs easier, too. Not everyone has the capability to travel to New Haven to study these collections in person, so having them online makes this wonder trove of knowledge accessible to anyone.

What I've Learned

During my time working in Susan’s lab I learned how to curate a museum collection. I was up close and personal with the invertebrate paleontology collection, and quickly became familiar with the inner workings of the collection. In my work, I learned how to identify insect fossils. In theory it doesn’t sound too difficult, but in practice it is much different. However, after a while I started to develop systems of recognition for the main orders of insects, especially the more common ones I found. For example, hymenoptera would have tagma in three segments with a cinched thorax, while coleoptera would be round with elytra.

I also learned the basics of managing a collection. Susan taught me how to catalog specimens into their online database. There is very specific information that needs to be input when adding a specimen, and it is more complicated than I thought it would be. If the information isn’t recorded properly, it can lead to problems later on. Along with this, Susan also taught me how to check specimens out of the collection. A special card must be filled out with the proper information, and then the specimen is checked out of the online database as well. It’s very similar to checking a book out at the library!

For the first few weeks of this internship I worked with Kristine and Gayatri to create educational content out of invertebrate fossils. There is a science to making information accessible to all demographics, which I quickly learned. It is always better to simplify the information initially, and then add onto it when appropriate. While it is good to include more advanced vocabulary, especially when dealing with scientific concepts, a definition of the word along with an easier to understand word should also be included.

The Most Challenging Part of the Project

When working in Susan’s lab, the most challenging aspect was definitely the first few days of trying to identify the insects. We were handed a huge packet of class level 400 college notes about general entomology and a pile of insect fossils and told to just go at it. The insects in the notes and the fossilized remains looked very different, making it difficult to identify them. On the rock they just looked like small smushed up spots. Not really knowing what to look for was incredibly frustrating, and we didn’t have many people to turn to. Most of her lab workers were not experienced in dealing with insect fossils, so there was only so much advice they could give. However, we forged through, and it eventually became much easier.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Most Challenging part Of The Project

The most challenging part of this project would be just putting all the information in what we are learning  in the lab, for our poster and carts we are going to create . other than that this project has been an incredible  experience for me and I would say for everybody involved in this project.

Saturday, July 18, 2015


Washing The Samples

1) Put on safety wear (lab coat, goggles and gloves)
2)Log the sample that you are using, amount of time it was soaking, your initials, and what wash number it is.
3)Grab a 63 μm sieve and a squeeze bottle of de-ionized water.
4)Start the de-ionized water tap and begin washing microfossils into the sieve being aware of the water pressure.
5)While cleaning the fossils keep checking until the water running through is clear and not foggy. After cleaning the fossils though grab a plastic funnel and filter.
6)Label the filter with the sample an wash number.
7)Collect the clean microfossils into the filter. Try not to get it into the folds.
8) While filling the filter, keep checking to make sure that the water that is being strained is not overfilling the beaker.
9)Log the time it took to wash the sample and label it clean or write any notes (whether it needs another wash, large microfossils, etc.)
10) Put sample in the oven to dry and repeat steps for the rest of the samples.

Getting Dry Weight
1) Grab a stapled set of samples and beakers.
2) Using a piece of masking tape, label the bag with the beaker number and the date.
3)Get the balance ready by leveling it out to zero.
4) Record the sample ID into the log and the weight of the empty beaker.
5) Measure the weight of the beaker and record into log.
6) Cut open the sample bag take out plastic tube. Put some of the sample into the beaker making sure to scrape the excess off of the plastic tube.
7)Leave at least a pinch full of the sample in the bag for bulk sediment analysis.
8)Seal the labeled sample bag back up using the heat sealer and set the beaker aside.
9)Continue steps 1 through 8 with the rest of the samples in the set. When that set is completed, staple them back up and continue with another set.

Bottling Dry Samples
1) Grab samples from oven, two boats, a small paintbrush, and a scrap piece of paper.
2) Place the scrap piece of paper down on work station to avoid samples from spilling.
3) Record the sample ID, amount of washes, date and weight of empty boat into the binder.
4) Label the vials with the designated sample label, and also label the top of the vial with a small sticker.
5) Empty the sample in the filter into a boat (the one you measured beforehand) and dust off the paper for remaining samples.
6) Measure and record.
7) Place vial in the empty boat and start carefully pouring the sample into the vial. Brush off the boat until it doesn't have any sample in it.
8) Put the vial aside.
9) Clean off the paintbrush and the boats and follow the steps above for the rest of the samples.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Procedures Of Daily Work In The Lab

In Dr.Hull lab we get the chance to wash-bottle foraminifera. I would explain the
Basic procedures of washing-bottle Forams!

washing forams

 step1: Put on Lab Coat, Safety glasses and gloves.

step 2 : Make sure you grab a 38mm sieve thats clean!

step 3: grab the beaker which the sample is in.

step4: record on your data sheet the basic information ( Date,Beaker # ,How long sample has be soaking for,type of wash " wash 1" "wash 2 etc" Your initials and  time took you to clean it,)  also on the filter paper write beaker # , type of wash.

step 5: Place sample into the sieve.

step 6: Wash Until water from sieve comes out clear with distilled water. 

step 7: Grab the same beaker , put a funnel in it also with the filter paper inside the funnel.

step8 : Dump the clear sample into the funnel with the filter paper and let it dry!

step 9: Take the filter paper out of the funnel  carefully and place filter paper back into the beaker.

step 10: Put the sample in the oven, and do the same steps for all samples.

weighting - bottling foraminifera

step1: Grab dry samples from the oven  ,  small tubes, 2 seperated boats to weight the forams in the balance, brush, and the  data sheet to look for the labels to go on the tubes.

step2: Dump the dry samples into the boats from the filter paper that was use to to place the forams.

step3: Put the boat into the balance and record its weight into the data sheet.

step4: From the 2 boats place the tube in one boat and dump the forams into the tube very carefully.

step5 : The put the labels around the tubes.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Gayatri's Procedure

I am planning to make my poster about the literal lab work we do, and then conclude explaining how this work contributes to learning about climate change.

Unwrapping Specimens-
  1. Take specimen out of wrapping extremely carefully
  2. Make sure you keep all the papers that have writing on them that came packed with the fossil.
  3. Place all the pieces that came together in an appropriately sized box.
Identifying Specimens-

  1. Examine specimen closely, identify its similarities to modern insects (eg. fly, bee, wasp, mosquito, etc.)
  2. Determine the actual order of the insecta using a insect fossil guide.
  3. Label the specimen using a pigma micron pen on paper and place the label and fossil back into the box.
  4. Catalogue the named fossils into the Yale’s collections.

First Impressions, Intro, & Methods

First Impressions of the Lab

This week was much more eventful than the previous one. On Tuesday we were given a deadline of one week to complete our work on the cart information, so it was a scramble to plan and execute the amount of work needed to be finished. However, Kristine, Gayatri, and I were able to come up with an effective game plan on how to tackle it all. They worked on the dichotomous key together, while I worked on creating a script by which Sci-Corps employees can interpret the cart to visitors. As I am the only one of us in Sci-Corps, it was more beneficial to delegate this task to me. Thankfully, we are a great group of thinkers, and were able to band together to finish this daunting task before our deadline. By Thursday, we felt confident to hand off our work for further editing.

On Wednesday we were finally able to work with the hexapod fossils in Susan's lab. We spent our time there unpacking one of the boxes sent to us by Jim, who extracted the fossils. Our work quickly became a contest to see who could unpack the "cutest" fossil. One thing I have learned from Susan's Lab is that fossils are ranked on their level of cuteness.

On Thursday we got to take a science field trip to Yale's Canine Cognition Center, where local dogs are brought in and given a series of psychological tests to try and figure out how dogs thinks. Despite us thinking that we understand how dogs view the world, we actually know very little about how dogs think and process information. They do, I learned, count objects. That afternoon in the lab we began trying to identify the insects in the fossils, which proved to be much more difficult than I had thought. I left the lab feeling slightly defeated by the insects. They may have won this round, but they won't win the next!


Intro for Poster - Rough Draft

Dr. Susan Butts is the Senior Collections Manager of the Invertebrate Paleontology Collection at the Peabody Museum of Natural History. Dr. Butts and her team of volunteers, post-docs, and grad students study the past climates of Earth through the fossilized remains of invertebrates-organisms without a skeletal structure. These include animals such as brachiopods, crinoids, and insects. My work in the lab was with the latter.

In the lab I learned the basics of curating a museum collection. This included identifying and cataloging insect fossils from the Green River formation in Colorado. These insects thrived over forty million years ago. My lab partners and I were responsible for digitizing the extensive collection into an online catalog that would be accessible to teachers and researchers all over the world.


Methods for Poster - Rough Draft

Museum curators have a variety of responsibilities in maintaining their collections. I was exposed to the basics of curating a collection, and on at least one occasion I did all of the following:

* identify specimens
* catalog specimens
* work with pre-cataloged specimens
* check specimens out of the collection
* observe other projects happening in the lab
* create educational content out of collections

All of these tasks are important in successfully curating a collection. It is crucial that museum collections are cared for, as they serve an important role in not only educating the public, but also in providing a basis of information for researchers to study. Museum collections have allowed scientists to track the migration and concentration of diseases throughout the world, which provides for faster and better treatment for victims. When multiple collections are examined in the same context, scientists can begin to paint a picture about what the Earth used to look like.

*I have scheduled a meeting with Susan for two weeks from now, in which she will discuss more in-depth her role as museum collections manager.*

Missing Posts from Fiona: Part II

This week in Rock Adventures, we explored the Paleontology-Botany Lab with collections manager Shusheng Hu. He took us through the museum's extensive collection of fossilized plants, explaining to us the various ways that Paleo-Botanists are able to study, and recreate, plants that have been long dead. For example, many prehistoric trees were several hundred feet tall, and complete samples have never been found. Scientists are able to find the separate pieces of the trees, such as the roots and bark, and with the help of an artist piece together the massive plant. One of his graduate students Emma showed us how the characteristics of leaves can help scientists to determine the climate in which these plants grew in. Wide fanned leaves indicate wet, tropical climates, while toothed leaves indicate a temperate climate. Because it is rare for organic material to be preserved in the fossils, scientists rely heavily on these indicators to determine how and where these plants once grew.


It occurred 23.03 to 5.3 million years ago, following the Oligocene, and preceding the Pliocene.

Geographic Landscaping
Mountain ranges began forming in North America, along with the expansion of grasslands. Australia experienced an increase in climate due to its movement north. Eurasia underwent drastic tectonic rearrangements. The Tethys Sea connection between the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean was severed in the mid-Miocene causing an increase in aridity in southern Europe.

Life Forms
The Miocene was known for the expanding open vegetation systems (deserts, tundra, and grasslands), while at the expense of closed vegetation systems, such as forests. As a result, many animal species evolved into fast-running herbivores, large predatory mammals and birds, or small quick birds and rodents. By the end of the Miocene, 95% of all modern seed plant families existed. No plant species since the middle of the Miocene have gone extinct. Kelp forests began to appear, along with the retreat of tropical forests.


For the final installation of Tours Through the Peabody, we visited the Vertebrate Paleontology collection. Our tour was lead by Christopher Norris, Senior Collections Manager of the collection. Throughout the tour, he constantly asked if he was talking too much; I honestly would have listened to him talk for hours! He made something that most would be bored by completely fascinating. Dr. Norris showed us specimens from multiple periods in geologic time, and explained how it was possible to determine climate change throughout the Earth's history by the various features on each specimen. For example, the teeth of Mammoths and Wooly Rhinos indicate tundra grazing, which indicated colder climates.

Dr. Norris also showed us how evolution can be noted, and corrected some misconceptions about evolution. Most believe that evolution is just retaining the most effective features and losing the rest. However, it often works the other way as well. He showed us the fossilized skull of a Hyaenodon, an ancient canine that terrorized Eurasia, North America, and Africa approximately 26 million years ago. This animal had razor sharp teeth that could only eat meat. He then showed us the skull of a Dire Wolf. Dire Wolves live up to their ferocious nature on Game of Thrones, as you would not would have wanted to encounter one of these canines. These animals skull, while larger than the Hyaenodon. had a specific feature distinguishing it from its ancient cousin: the teeth. Dire Wolves were actually omnivorous; their teeth allowed for a small amount of vegetation to be eaten. Given the wide geographic range Dire Wolves had, this makes sense. Dr. Norris said that it was fairly common for this kind of "de-evolution" to occur. One would assume that the teeth would evolve to be even more effective more eating meat. However, as the wolf expands its diet, it increases its chances of survival.

Once Dr. Norris stepped out, one of his graduate students, Matt, allowed for us to look more closely at the collection. I found one of the coolest things in my life, and hid in the corner looking at it as everyone else obsessed over something else on the other end of the collection. As I was roaming through one of the cabinets, I discovered a drawer label "Ursus spelaeus." I immediately got excited, as I knew that this was a famous cave bear. Bears have always been my favorite animal, and I have been affectionately dubbed Mama Bear by my friends. Needless to say, a bear skeleton, let alone a cave bear skeleton, was an exciting find. The skull was too high up in the cabinet, and a 5'2" girl like me was not equipped to take down a heavy skull like that. I was able to admire it from down below, though, and it was massive. I did get to hold the femur from the bear, though, and it was an extraordinary experience. I have been obsessed with the Ice Age since I was a small child, and being able to hold the bone from such an ancient, exceptional creature was almost a gift. I felt in that moment connected to it somehow, and knew that we are much closer than one would think. The power I felt from that animal as I held its bone was unlike anything I have ever felt before. As strange as this sounds, I wanted to thank the bear for allowing me such an intimate view of it.


This week went from bonding sessions to collection explorations in a matter of hours. Kristine and I spent most of Tuesday discussing our education and career goals, with fun facts about our lives thrown in to spice it up. We worked on our dichotomous key for our invertebrate paleontology cart for Sci-Corps in the morning, tweaking the descriptions of each fossil to make it more accessible for museum visitors. The afternoon was spent researching colleges and the requirements for majors that we are considering studying. I am interested in Geology as I want to be a Paleontologist, and Kristine is conveniently a Geology major, so she talked to me about what it's actually like to major in Geology.

On Wednesday Gayatri was able to join us, and we continued to work on our key for the cart. We spent the morning researching the fossils, and then visited Dr. Susan Butts in her lab, where we will begin work next week. She took us on a mini-tour of the Invertebrate Paleontology collection, teaching us about a few different fossils related to our cart. Susan also showed us one of the drawers full of insect fossils, which we will be cataloging this summer as well. Afterwards, we went on a science adventure in one of the museum's storage areas, and each selected an un-labeled fossil which we each have to try and identify. Gayatri figured hers out fairly quickly, while I still have no idea what mine could be. I guess we'll have to find out next week!

Thursday was another mellow day. We started our morning discussing an article about the lack of women in STEM related fields, and some of the factors that discourage women from pursuing post-doctoral research. It was an intense discussion lasting nearly forty minutes, after which all three of were tired and frustrated. Being that we are all women studying/planning on studying STEM fields, it is upsetting to know that these challenges exist outside of our fairly protective bubble. We then spent some time looking at the online catalog for the museum, selecting fossils that we want to use on our cart. Afterwards, we spent the rest of the afternoon down in the lab with Susan, who lead us through the process of taking a fossil out of the collection.

Missing Posts from Fiona: Part I

Fiona hasn't been able to log on to the blog, so I will be posting her updates instead! To bring her up to speed, here are some of the things we've missed from her:


I never thought that I'd say this, but Ohio is a pretty interesting place.

Ohio's vast and diverse topography was created by geological changes, dating back over five-hundred million years. There are two time frames that Ohio's geographic history: Paleozoic rocks, and Glaciated Deposits.

Paleozoic rocks are the oldest found in Ohio, predating the dinosaurs there by about five-hundred and fifty to two-hundred and fifty years. The rocks form the majority of Geological structures in Ohio, such as naturally occurring bridges, caves, and quarries. They span in location, size, structure, and type. Paleozoic rocks are typically Limestone, Sandstone, Shale, and Siltstone.

The second period, Glaciated Deposits, is much more recent than Paleozoic rocks. While the latter are hundreds of millions of years old, the former are only tens of thousands of years old. Glaciers formed much of the landscape, and even the Great Lakes. The ice eroded grooves in the limestone found in Ohio, leaving deep depressions in the land. Well, not the ice necessarily, but the rocks that were being carried by the ice. The rocks wore down the limestone as the glacier passed through. Think of it as sandpaper. The oldest recorded glacier in Ohio is over one million years old, while the youngest is about fifteen-thousand years old.

There is about a million years between Paleozoic rocks and Glaciated deposits.
Most of Ohio used to be completely underwater in a tropical inland sea. The Ice Age covered about two thirds of Ohio, with only the South/Mideastern parts of the state being unglaciated. The famous Great Lakes were formed by Glacial erosion as well. For example, Lake Erie was once the basin of a tributary system, but each glaciation eroded the drainage system away, until only the lake was left.

Due to the immense amount of rocks found in the state, Ohio has a thriving quarrying industry. They are able to produce roads and highways with rocks mined locally. However, due to all of the industrialization, sandy beaches have all but been eliminated from the state.

BUT, this story does have a happy ending! Headland Dunes National Park is the last natural beach in Ohio. Human-made jetties and breakwaters help protect the beach, trapping sand along the shore to make longer, wider beaches. This beach is a habitat for a wide variety of diverse wildlife, and is a lovely location for a picnic.


What do I have to do to get on Dr. Pincelli Hull's level? Live on a boat for two months? Get a PhD in Geology and Geophysics? Okay.  

The ocean's PH levels have been changing rapidly over the past several years. As the Earth gets hotter, more Co2 emissions are released into the atmosphere. They are absorbed in the ocean, combining with H2O to create a CO32-, leading to an increase in 2HCO3- in the ocean. This is referred to as acidification. Acidification kills pteropods, because the 2HCO3- weakens and dissolves the CaCO3 that their shells of made of. Pteropods are animals such as coral, and shellfish, which are an important part of the ecosystem. If they start to die out, the entire food chain is affected. This impacts every ocean, in mainly shallow waters.  

Dr. Hull's research is in this change of the ocean's PH levels, and it's affects on foraminifera. She lived on a boat for several months, working for twelve hours a day documenting these amoeboid protists that were drilled from the bottom of the ocean. Samples were drilled about a hundred feet down, and a team of geologists documented, analyzed, and tested the samples, to help understand what is happening to the ocean floor as 2HCO3- increases in the ocean.


Ah, Saturday meetings. Free snacks, fun people, five hours of rocks. Fabulous! We actually had a really productive meeting, split into two parts: Science for the first half, and then cart development the second half. And we came up with some pretty wicked cool ideas. I won't write any cart spoilers, so let's talk about rocks!

So, the Earth has three layers: The thin outer-layer crust; the mantle, which is about 82% of the Earth; and the core, which has both solid and liquid parts.

The Lithosphere, which is the crust and the upper mantle, make up tectonic plates. These plates can collide, grind, and rub against each other. This is caused by convection of heat from the core of the earth. The process is similar to boiling a pot of water, and the change in kinetic energy.

Who here has ever heard of Pangea? Almost everyone? Awesome! While Pangea is probably the most famous of the supercontinents, it was by no means the only one. Over the millions of years that Earth has been formed, the continents have changed many times. Other known formations are Gondwana and Laurentia. There is this theory that every hundred million years, the continents collide to form one supercontinent. I guess geologists of the future can tell us for certain!


Dr. Susan Butts is able to look at the fossil record, and predict future climate change and its effects on species on Earth. In order to make this information available to the public, Dr. Butts and a team of other professors and interns have been digitizing the collections of their respective museums. And this lab is one of the two possible labs that we'll be working in this summer.

Dr. Butts has two grants that she is working with, one of which allows her and other scientists to work on a website called Paleoniches. Paleoniches looks at three different periods in Earth's history: the Pennsylvanian, the Ordovician, and the Neogene. From these three periods, the Peabody has over 346,615 specimens!

On IDigPaleo, anyone will be able to access the Peabody's extensive Invertebrate Paleontology/Insect collection online. It's the digitization of all of the records, which will be accessible to teachers, researchers, or even high schoolers!

These two sites will revolutionize the trading of specimens for studying. A scientist from Ohio now no longer needs to fly all the way over to Connecticut to examine a specimen. They can access all of the information on the specimen online. This is especially useful, as the Peabody, (and most museums), only displays about 1% of it's entire collection. So those without special access, such as teachers and students, do not have access to that information. Now they will. These sites will bring museums into the twenty-first century, and appeal to a much wider, and younger, demographic.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Gayatri's Introduction for Poster - Geo & Paleo

In our Invertebrate Paleontology lab, we are answering questions about climate change by examining and identifying various invertebrate fossils and their habitats. By looking at their living conditions, we can determine how Earth's climate had changed. There are a multitude of invertebrate fossil collections in the Yale's Paleontology department and our job is to inform the public of these various specimens. Fossils hold large clues in discovering how the climate and environment was like on Earth in the past as well as predicting climates in the future. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Introduction for Poster

The research in the lab invertebrate Paleontology focus on the climate change , water chemistry of the ocean how acidic it was during the Cenozoic era which happen 65 million years ago. mud samples comes from various  sites in the ocean. The process is called " ocean drilling"  drilling about  4km down into ocean to collect foraminifera. We study foraminifera because they can tell us how much CCD,  co2  was in the ocean during the cenozoic era.

Poster intro Try #1

The climate has changed drastically over time. The lab I am working in finds out how. Sediment cores are extracted from the deep sea, and cut up and sent to our lab. What I did was research the acidity of the water at different points in time by cleaning and cataloging the fossil samples. This acidity can determine the amount of CO2 that was in the time period.

Janae and Juhi Introduction


In the Oceanic Invertebrate Paleontology lab, we are studying climate change by examining single celled, deep sea microfossils called foraminifera. The foraminifera is collected from various locations in the ocean by inserting large cylindrical drills vertically 4 kilometers deep into the ocean floor to sample mud from the Cenozoic Era. This helps us explain the differences between climates throughout Earth's history.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Spending Summer With Forams

My second week in Dr.Hull lab have been incredible. I always look forward to go to it, the first few days were very confusing , I was still learning ofcource. Everything seem so complicated ,  but everyday it starts to get very simple. When Im washing the samples filled with forams times goes by so fast when you finish your 5th-6 sample , its 12:30PM already. The cool thing about it is the you want to keep on doing more samples but time does not allowed you. Then you think that most samples takes about 25-30 minutes to be completly Finished and clean. I enjoy my Mornings in Dr.Hull lab everyday , I get to see 65 Million year olds forams!
When you go In the lab be  concentrate on what Leanne  assigned you  to do , its either washing or labeling, weighin.  you get really good at both by time. ofcource always  be focus because you do not want to mess anything up. I can already predict that the next few weeks in the lab is going to be such an amazing experience everyday and also filled with very important work that we do. what other way to spend that summer than with forams!

Routine's in Dr. Hull's Lab

Before the Geology Internship happened I never thought that I would get used to a lab routine until later on in my life.

But then again that is this internship in a nutshell. Doing and experiencing amazing things before I imagined myself to.

The day started out with getting to the lab at 9:30 am. We slipped into our lab coats and covered our hands with gloves. From there we would record the sample that we planned on cleaning into a chart and strut on over to our sinks. Once we turned on the de-ionized taps, we started on our tasks of cleaning the samples.

Time in the lab goes by very fast. I was very surprised to see how quickly time passed from when I started, to when it ended. Then my attention would turn to all the samples that I ended up cleaning and the time difference would make sense. I'd cleaned at least six samples in the time that I was in the lab. I was interested and constantly asking myself questions the whole time. The questions you can ask about mud that's millions of years old are honestly endless.

 I guess now I finally understand what my fifth grade teacher told me, "If you really enjoy doing something, time goes faster."