Thursday, July 16, 2015

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.*

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