Live from the Field: The Smoking Gun

Kim Beck, a regular excavator with the
HMNS team, looks for fossils eroding out
at the surface.

Our paleontology team – led by Dr. Robert Bakker – is back in Seymour, TX this week, digging for Dimetrodon at a site they’ve now been working for several years. (You can read more of what’s been found already in our daily blog from the field in 2007).

Listen to the podcast below to hear David Temple – our associate curator of paleontology and a one of our BEYONDbones bloggers – fill us in on the progress from yesterday - including the discovery of “The Smoking Gun,” and evidence of cannibal Dimetrodon – as well as the history of the site the team is digging on, which is so rich that scientists have been pulling Dimetrodon and other Permian-era species out of the ground there since 1877.

If you’re a paleo expert, you can skip this paragraph and head straight to the update – but David mentions a few things that not everyone is familiar with: “matrix” is a term paleontologists use to describe the material that surrounds fossils. “Wet screening” is the process of putting matrix on a small-weave screen and running water through it to find any tiny fossils that might have been missed. And, Dimetrodon grandis is the very largest species of Dimetrodon ever found – making it the biggest, baddest predator of the Permian.


Our field team will be updating us on progress at the site every day this week – so check out yesterday’s update from Kat Havens, another of our excavators – and come back tomorrow for more from the fossil field!

I Sold My Soul to Science

I have been associated with the Museum in some form or fashion for over 10 years. Not only do I work for the Museum, I live with and am married to the Museum as well.  During this time I generally get asked three questions.  The first question is always, “What is it like to be married to / live with David?” My husband David Temple is the Associate Curator of Paleontology.  If you don’t like rocks and fossils, he will be around to convert you shortly.

People assume that we have some crazy life, but mostly we are just really busy. We truly enjoy being at our house (both at the same time, which makes it more difficult). I like to think that our house is styled after the Victorian period.  Dave likes to think of it as Neo Adams.

We get the weirdest questions about our house. As if we wouldn’t have all the standards that other houses have. So to prove that this is a fact, I have some pictures. (The house is true. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.)

We will begin with the kitchen. To prove that we are normal, here is our fridge. Like everyone else, we tack important bits of info to the fridge so they don’t get lost.


Like everyone else, we have scorpion and cobra whiskey on the fridge stored neatly under a Thai head dress. We have the odd assortment of frozen foods, like butterfly wings. And dead animals.

We like coffee in the morning. And we keep our pets next to the coffee maker on the counter.

As for the Dermestid Beetles.  They are actually my pet project.

We are trying to make skeleton mounts for the Education Collections and  I thought that the beetles might help with one or two dried frogs we had managed to acquire. This is about a month into the process.  The frog in this case had been mummified for about a year before giving him to the beetles.  A smaller, fresher frog, only took about two weeks.

I love baking cupcakes. Believe me, there was talk of an intervention. Dave loves to cook.  The kitchen is the central area in our house, as it is for most people.  We often have a variety of projects beside baking or cooking though.

In our kitchen, we have a hutch where we keep cook books. Cook books are safe and normal, I am sure you would agree. Dave collects cookbooks of various cultures and time periods and cuisines.

We have a room in the house that started off as the study/office, but it wasn’t widely used as most of the activities in this room ended up in the kitchen anyway. SO, I claimed it as my sewing room. Quilting often keeps me from killing my family. It is a great creative outlet and I am surrounded by inspiration.

 

Our back yard is often neglected, but we do seem to have an abundance of Aloe Vera for some reason.  Occasionally we water them and call it gardening. Directly next to the Aloe is my bucket o’ bones.  If you have read my previous posts on the Museum’s blog, you will be happy to note that the bones have made it inside and are being sorted. Plus, there is the bullfrog rescue operation Dave has started.

The second question I am always asked is, “What is it like to work at the Museum?”

The Museum is a cruel mistress.  You work long hours on weird projects, often on the weekends and you love every minute of it. The Museum is home.  Your house is where you keep your stuff when not at home. Here are a few shots of my office so you can envision the crazy. Note the Tapir skeleton in the background. 

The third question I am asked is, “You must learn a lot working at a Museum, right?”  You would think so, but yet I seem to be filled with only useless information.  I think that I might have a shot on Jeopardy. So, what have I learned working here?

 I know that the Rock Hyrax’s closest relative is the elephant.

 That Thomas Jefferson fully believed that Lewis and Clark would find a live mammoth when they mapped the west.

 

That the cone snail is one of the most deadly animals in the world, but is also used for pain medication. 

That it is better to have a hippo head than no hippo at all.

 

That the First Lady can’t walk under swordfish

 That the admin elevator is the exact right size for a tapir

 

That the giant squid has the largest eyeball of any animal

 And that it isn’t unusual to find your place of work altered on a daily basis.

 

But most importantly I have learned that without the support of the Museum volunteers, our patrons and the Houston community, the Museum could not provide the quality exhibits and programming that we do!

Science Doesn’t Sleep (4.15.08)

So here’s what went down since you logged off.

Have you ever wanted to curate an exhibit? Now’s your chance. With Click! A Crowd-Curated Exhibition, The Brooklyn Museum is giving you a say in what they put on display. Just visit the site, register and start rating their photographs. The sliding scale is ridiculously easy to use, and the photographs are amazing. Here’s what they say about it:

“Taking its inspiration from the critically acclaimed book The Wisdom of Crowds, in which New Yorker business and financial columnist James Surowiecki asserts that a diverse crowd is often wiser at making decisions than expert individuals, Click! explores whether Surowiecki’s premise can be applied to the visual arts—is a diverse crowd just as “wise” at evaluating art as the trained experts?”

Testing a theory – what a scientific way to create an art exhibit! They need lots of participation for the idea to work, so head on over there, check it out and let us know what you think.

The odds of disaster are tiny, but the risks are cosmically high.” The New York Times weighs in on CERN’s deep desire to create a black hole that swallows the Earth.

With hurricane season looming, it’s good to hear that scientists have developed a safer way of predicting these storms. But if you’re more interested in the crazy-dangerous way they currently use, the Hurricane Hunter is visiting Galveston today.

Creative Commons License photo credit: EÖnn

What’s with scientists and giant lasers, lately? Just a week after UT physicist Todd Dittmire announced that the Texas Petawatt Laser had just become the most powerful in the world, a team of European scientists used another laser to create lightning in thunderclouds.

Electricity, Schmelectricity. Scientists at the University of Utah have developed a circuit that may lead to computers that run on light (specifically, terahertz radiation.)

USGS: “Large California Earthquakes: Odds are High.” Also in breaking news – “Summer in Houston: Humid, Hot.”