Thursday, July 30, 2015

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.

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