Fossils at the Smithsonian

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CATEGORY: Internships, Academics
TYPE: Articles
RELATED PROGRAMS: Geology

By | Alexandra Lawrence ’14
Bethesda, Maryland
Geology

At the Smithsonian I taught our collaborators how we recovered fossils from rocks we’d collected in Montana. I also initiated a new fossil extraction project that will parallel the work we do here in
Rogers’s research lab.

I learned to make molds and casts for creating exact replicas of 75 million-year-old fossils. This fascinating work took place during my internship at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.

The fossils, collected from the Cretaceous Judith River Formation of Central Montana, included a tyrannosaurid tooth, a champsosaur vertebra, and a small theropod claw. My instructor was
Steve Jabo, a renowned vertebrate fossil preparator who has worked with the Smithsonian for 25 years. He taught me the professional techniques of this intricate process that would yield the most accurate replication of the specimens.

The claw I replicated was one our research group found last summer in Montana, on an expedition led by geology professor Ray Rogers. The other fossils came from previous field excursions
with Rogers.

The casts I made—and continue to make here at Macalester—will be featured at a National Fossil Day event that will be hosted next fall by the Bureau of Land Management in Lewistown, Montana.
At the Smithsonian I taught our collaborators how we recovered fossils from rocks we’d collected in Montana. I also initiated a new fossil extraction project that will parallel the work we do here in
Rogers’s research lab.

Jabo invited me to return next winter to continue my internship exploring the world of museum paleontology and research grade fossil preparation. I can’t wait to go back.

PUBLISHED: 05/01/2013