Friday, April 1, 2016

What I Learned! -Iris A.

When I first thought about digging in the Red Beds, I imagined that the ground would be flat and the rocks would all look the same. But in reality, the field was an endless, bumpy ground, full of cactus and fossils. I learned a lot on this trip. One of the main things was learning how to disguise a bone and rock. A way to tell the difference is if you lick a bone it will be sticky due to the pores it has, but a rock will not be sticky. Another thing I learned is what an actually site looks like, and I got the opportunity of digging up some bones. I learned about different pre dinosaurs as well, such as the Dimetrodon. It was weird, but I also adjusted to be in a small town with very few people, unlike Houston. I understand now how hard paleontologist have to work. The weather is harsh and one has to have a lot of patience. We talked with people in the museum, which helped me understand more about what I learned in Seymour. Even though I was very tired at the end, I had a lot of fun! 

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Morgann's Reflection

During this trip I learned new things and had new experiences. I loved working with the people that were and if this trip is offered again I would go without hesitation, however because of past incidents the dig might not be an option next year. Learning the techniques and what unprepared fossils looked like was very interesting. It was sometimes hard to distinguish rock from caliche from bone and from bone covered in caliche. A useful way to find out whether the rock is rock or bone is to lick it. If it is bone it is mildly sticky, at the end of the day my mouth often tasted like dirt. While I was there I did some jacket digging. Jacket digging is where you did out the matrix, the dirt around the fossil, and find small bones around the main fossil in the jacket. I also did some digging in the rock walls around the sights we were in. Both forms of finding fossils were very fun in my opinion. Being in this A-Term gave me a new appreciation for paleontology and being out in the field. 

Reflections - Amanda

The paleontology a-term was very interesting to me because I didn’t know much at all about the subject before-hand.  Now that I have experience of what the field work is like and how much is learned, it’s become very intriguing to me. I am now really interested in the field and definitely would like to intern with the HMNS. I think by far my favorite parts so far were the first day, working at the George Ranch, and using the lab to clean fossils, respectively.
The first day at the ammonite bed in fort worth was really fun, as it was my first experience actually looking for fossils. I really like ammonites, I find them to be really beautiful and even the small pieces are very cute. I was surprised to find an ammonite intact and together with more than just a shard. I plan to clean this as best as I can on my own.
At the lab, I found out that one of the smaller fossils I found from the spoil pile was actually a plant they hadn’t seen in that area before since they first started work there. It was really interesting to see all the pieces we found under microscope and even more so to actually use the air scribe and clean the caliche off of the bones.
At the George Ranch I found a complete fossil of a small fish, aptly named “Dory”. This was a unique find as they hadn’t ever found a complete one at the site before. I think the name Dory is appropriate as I wasn’t the one to dig it out, but was the one to notice it. It had already been excavated but left behind someone that didn’t notice or forgot about it.
All in all, the trip was an amazing experience and I’m very grateful to have had this opportunity. It’s been a fantastic time (despite the many cactus spines) and I would definitely do it again if I were given the chance. This has really opened up an entirely new interest for me and I think I’ll pursue it further.

Emily's Trip Reflection

     This was my third and final A-Term in Seymour, and I can honestly say I am going to miss it. My internship has solidified that I will most likely major in geology in college. I feel as though my time spent in Seymour has been particularly important, because it has allowed me to be the first to work on certain Permian bones and also to observe the sediment in which they are preserved.

     During this trip I was able to see bits and pieces from different Permian animals that I had not seen before, which allowed me to broaden my understanding of the Permian ecosystem. I have appreciated this part of our research a lot since it has allowed me to not just work on Dimetrodons but also understand what they ate and where they both lived and did not live. We spent a more balanced amount of time at the Whiteside Museum's site on the George Ranch and the Houston Museum of Natural Science's sites on the Craddock Ranch this year. These two sites contain vastly different ecosystem, one which is run by Edaphosaur and Eryops and one containing many Dimetrodons and Xenacanthus sharks as well as gill breathing amphibians. One of my favorite parts of this year's trip was looking at the different sediments in these two ecosystems, their oxidation, and how oxygen, or a lack of it, affected the environment.

     I hope to return to Seymour at least one more time this summer before I head off to college next fall.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Ian's Reflection on the Red Beds

Now that the trip has ended, I understand the importance of paleontology, a topic with I had only been partially acquainted. My internship before the paleo A-term required my artistic talents, and while I did partially research the fossil before I began drawing it, I never considered looking into its origin or the process in which it was discovered. I was very excited about going to work in the field, and finally see where the museum obtains the plethora of fossils that are shown in the paleo gallery that Houston knows and loves so well. Getting to work alongside such people as David Temple, who is the associate curator of paleontology at the HMNS, and Dr. Robert T. Bakker, who is the curator was an honor. One of the first topics that we discussed, was bone structure. One of the oddest fossils we studied belonged to the Xenacanthus, which was a prehistoric shark that lacked the forked tail and dorsal fin that we see in sharks today. It had instead, a pointed tail like an eel, four fins on either side of its body (because it could also crawl on land for a short time) and a venomous spine that stuck out of its back. The class found many teeth and barbed spines belonging to this creature, which made me value it even more because I was literally digging up the past and holding it in my hands. Along with this, I have learned how to identify the bones, and how to piece them together when they are separated within the dirt. It was quite difficult at first, but the class seemed to get the hang of things when we went looking for bones among the dirt and caliche. 
Caliche is a compilation of sand and dirt that partially, if not completely, covers the bones. The difficult part was recognizing that from just a simple rock. We were advised to feel the weight of any large rocks, tap it and another rock to see if there is a deeper clinking sound, and to lick the rock. Licking was substituted for water because a liquid may loosen some of the dirt around it, making it easier to scrape off. I have also learned how to identify what happened in an area while digging in the field. For example, the class was taught to look at scratch marks which may actually be bite marks. Comparing these bites to the two most prevalent fossils in the area, one may conclude that one of the creatures was a predator, and the other was it's meal. Dr. Bakker showed this to us by leading the group to a site in which Xenacanthus fossils had gashes that were inflicted by the nearby predator, the Dimetrodon, whose fossils were in abundance within that particular site. 
Another piece of information I obtained from this trip was the science behind the name of the Texas Red Beds. While not completely related to the fossils, it was nice to hear about the environment in which we would be working. The dirt here lacks calcium carbonate, but due to the rich iron content, it is red. During my internship at the museum, I noticed the abundance of red dirt stains on the floors. Now I know what makes it unique. 
Overall, this class was a truly amazing experience. Before this trip, I just drew the fossils. While this is very important for documentation, I never thought about the long process it takes to find, gather, identify, label, and clean the bones that I see when I go to my internship. I suppose I took the fossil's clean appearance for granted, but now I realize that without the work of the paleontologists in the field, I would never be able to capture such a clear picture on paper. This trip was not only fun, but extremely educational. I am now capable of returning to my internship, and looking towards the fossils with an even greater respect than I had before.  

Nathan's Reflection on the Trip!


            The paleontology trip was a great trip and I learned a lot from it. We were at Seymour, TX for 1 week digging for several prehistoric animals. By being in one place for a whole week you get immersed in what you are doing and you learn so much.

            For starters I learned about differences between several species in the Permian age. The animals had many unique qualities that were able to make them succeed over others. They were also not as advanced as the dinosaurs we are familiar with. For instance, some of the animals couldn't even hear, suggesting that there were probably not able to communicate with their species or each other. In general, all the animals were different and they were able to succeed because of their unique characteristics.

            We also learned a lot about the activity of digging up the fossils. I knew before we went to Seymour that fossils are very delicate but, I didn't know how delicate. By having a lot of experience with digging up fossils at the beginning of the trip I got used to how careful you must be towards the end of the trip. Understanding how delicate you had to be with the fossils also led to another learning experience with tools.

            In the field we had a variety of tools. We had a Rock hammer, a screwdriver, a brush, a small brush, a needle pointed chisel, and a variety of other delicate tools. Knowing when to use the different tools depended on the situation. If you were digging up large amounts of rocks than you would use the rock hammer but you would have to be careful because if you ran into a fossil you would have to use a different type of tool, otherwise you would damage the fossil. This also applies to when you are in the lab cleaning up fossils (also known as prepping). When you are cleaning fossils you are usually doing so with a chisel (as to get rid of the rock surrounding it) but when you get to close to the fossil you can't use the chisel otherwise you would damage the fossil. You would then have to use an air brush to move the small rocks off the fossil. Using certain tools in certain situations is very important if you want to have fossils preserved in the best way possible.

            One of the last major things I learned during the trip is the efficiency of the work you do. When in the field we were told constantly the following phrase "all fossils are important". That means that you shouldn't risk losing fossils at any point in time. This really matters in the field because it damages how fast you can clear rock and how fast you can clear rock away from very important areas. When digging at the site you learn to take care of the work you are doing because it is very important to find everything there is to find.

            The trip was great and, like I said, it was a great learning experience. I hope to go looking for fossils again now that I have learned how delicate you have to be with them. I also hope that, in the few days left at the museum, we get more time to clean fossils and such in the lab. One of my goals would probably be to clean the fossils I found at the Ammonite bed, especially the large one, that way I can have a grand fossil to display in my room.

Thanks for Reading!

Monday, March 28, 2016

A term paleontology day one

Yesterday we departed from Houston on route to Seymour, Texas, where we’ll be digging for predinosaur fossils. On the way up to Seymour we stopped by an ammonite bed. We found many many little pieces of ammonite and coral and shells, but I was very lucky. I ended up finding an ammonite that was still intact! Instead of being just a shard of it, I was able to find an entire ammonite, and managed not to break it while removing it. Some time later we arrive in Seymour at the Sagamar Inn, and despite the instance of me almost immediately locking myself out, I was glad to finally lay down. My school is understanding of me being transgender and as such they didn’t room me with the boys! Although, they wouldn’t put me with the other girls either, so I have my own room. It is strange because it has three beds and I’m the only one using them. I don’t like being alone. So I’m not particularly happy about the arrangement. But hey at least I don’t have to take turns for who showers. I’m ready to start the day today.