Yesterday in the lab we were playing with (read: working with) Legos and clay. In the Burpee lab we use Legos and clay to help us make molds of bones. These molds can be used to create casts, or replicas, of whole or partial specimens. This is particularly useful if we need to take a real specimen or bone off of display – instead of leaving an empty space in the exhibit, we can put the cast replica out in its place.
Yesterday we were specifically making molds of vertebrae from an extinct alligatoroid called Stangerochampsa sp. (nicknamed “Ernie”) that was discovered in Montana in 2008. “Ernie” will be part of the new Homer exhibit. So far we’ve made molds and casts of “Ernie’s” scutes, and most of his forelimb and hindlimb material.Today we’ll pour the other half of this mold, and next week we will be able to make casts of these vertebrae to check how good our mold is.