Through the months of April and May, professionals, educators, high school students, graduate students, and local land owners all pitched in to excavate a partial Tylosaurus skeleton from the lower Smoky Hill Chalk of Gove County, Kansas. It didn't take long for the quarry to turn into an outdoor classroom as we talked about everything from the geologic history of Western Kansas to the skeletal anatomy of mosasaurs to different excavation techniques (including a few impromptu physics lessons as we figured out how to get a 1000 lb jacket into a truck bed). Ultimately, our classroom provided first dig experiences, a science project for two advanced biology students, a gathering point for ranchers around the area to drop by and see what was going on (lawn chairs and grills included!), and a launch pad for future student research and community collaborations. Local media outlets also helped spread our story.
|The jacket containing the fossil mosasaur getting fork lifted |
to its new home in our prep lab at the Sternberg Museum.
Of course, not all students are looking to build a career in the field of paleontology (talk about a flooded job market!), but it is the core mission of natural history museums to instill an interest in and understanding of science. We strive to encourage people to ask and answer questions about the world around them and figure out ways to solve problems. We aim to build a respect for the knowledge and advancements that scientific research, engineering, and technology can provide. I like to think that by giving students of all ages hands-on experiences exploring what science is and why it's important, we are leaving them better equipped to shoulder the responsibility for our future.
|A crew including Sternberg Museum paleontologist, Sternberg Museum education director, Fort Hays State graduate students, Quinter High School biology teacher, Quinter High School biology students, and our fantastic land owners! May 2014|
-- Dr. Laura E. Wilson
Curator of Paleontology
Sternberg Museum of Natural History
And all with only one truck snafu (this is par for the course for me...)