The Jane Diaries

Dr. Thomas Carr a Tyrannosaurid expert from Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin has been working with “Jane” Burpee Museum’s juvenile Tyrannosaurus rex specimen from the Hell Creek Formation in south eastern Montana to determine if “Jane” is indeed a juvenile T. rex or if the specimen should be referred to a different species of theropod dinosaur.

"Jane" Burpee Museum's juvnile T. rex

“Jane” Burpee Museum’s juvnile T. rex

Dr. Carr has spent countless hours documenting and studying “Jane’s” fossil components to observe as many details as possible so that the specimen can be placed soundly into a fossil species based on morphological characteristics. If you would like to follow his journey into the details of “Jane’s” skeleton check out his blog Tyrannosauroidea Central or follow him on Twitter at @TyrannosaurCarr. His work with “Jane” will be published as a manuscript once his research is complete – keep an eye on Dr. Carr and Burpee Museum’s social media outlets for updates on the manuscript publication as well!


Answers to “Ask a Curator Day” 2014

"Jane" Burpee Museum's juvnile T. rex

“Jane” Burpee Museum’s juvnile T. rex

Great questions from Ask a Curator Day last week! Burpee Collections Staff received a set of questions from Andy Hyunh that will be addressed today. Andy submitted a short bio and these questions to us last week:

From Andy:

Hello! A little bit about myself, I am currently serving in the Army and I plan to study Paleontology and Paleobiology once I am finished with my military career. It has always been a childhood dream of mine to become a Paleontologist.

 My questions are:

 1) How many fossils do you have in your collection?

 2) What is the largest fossil you currently have in your collection?

 3) Once I am done with my service, where can I start to begin a career in the field of Paleontology? I am from California and I tend to visit the Natural History Musuem of Los Angeles as well as the Page Museum/La Brea Tar Pits whenever I come home for leave. I was told that I could start volunteering in the museums? What classes/courses do I need to take? I am highly motivated and extremely excited about all this!

These are great, and very important questions for anyone aspiring to go into the paleontology field! Check out the Collections Staff’s responses below!

1. How many fossils are in the Burpee Museum Collection?

Burpee Museum has over 30,000 fossils in its permanent collection. They range in size from tiny microvertebrate fossils to huge sauropod limb bones, and in age from 455 million year old Ordovician fossils to, relatively, new Ice Age fossils.

2. What is the largest fossil in the Burpee Museum Collection?

“Jane” the juvenile Tyrannosaurus rex on display is 21 feet long as a whole specimen. However, as far as individual elements go, we have an Ordovician cephalopod that is nearly 10 feet long.

3. How to begin a career in Paleontology?

Volunteering in museums and at field sites is an excellent way to start. There are many different facets of paleontology – everything from field work, prep work, and scholarly research fall into the field of paleontology. Volunteering can help you narrow down what area interests you the most.

Depending on your area of interest, there are different requirements to get into the field.

Preparators work to clean, restore, and reconstruct fossils in a lab setting. There are conferences like Fossil Preparation and Collections Symposium that you can attend to learn techniques and methods for fossil preparations and collections care. Many preparators also work, in some capacity, with collections managers to make sure that specimens are both prepared and stored properly. The last Fossil Preparation and Collections Symposium was held in Salt Lake City, Utah and the Natural History Museum of Utah.

Scholarly research in the paleo field generally requires at least a Masters degree, if not a Doctorate. Coursework for aspiring paleontologists generally is in Biology or Geology, ideally some of both. Many universities have opportunities for undergraduate research as well as graduate level research. This can be a great way to see if research is something that you enjoy as well as a way to start to build a research resume. Early research projects, or even assisting with projects, will help to introduce you to people in that field who may turn out to be great advisers for future projects.

Field work is generally a component of a career in paleontology, but it is usually not the sole focus. Researchers, preparators, students, and collections staff are usually involved with field work at some point. Very few people end up getting paid to to field work year round. That said, having good field skills is very valuable. Some universities have paleo field schools, where you spend several weeks in the field learning about field techniques. There are also some museums (Burpee Museum included) that have opportunities for people who are not paleontologists to do field work.

We wish you the best Andy, and we hope that if you are ever in Northern Illinois that you’ll stop by and say Hi!


Ask a Curator Day!

Burpee Staff answers questions at the Rockford Expo. Photo Credit: Brent Lewis, Rockford Register Star

Burpee Staff answers questions at the Rockford Expo. Photo Credit: Brent Lewis, Rockford Register Star

It is “Ask a Curator Day!” Use the form below to email your burning questions about being a curator, natural history collections, or museums in general to the Burpee Museum Collections Staff. The best questions, and the answers to them, will be featured in next week’s blog post!


From the Pod Farm: Ceratosaurus?

A few weeks ago, Burpee Museum Lab Staff and Volunteers opened another “pod” from the Hanksville-Burpee Dinosaur Quarry in Utah. This pod was removed from the site several years ago, and has been known as the Ceratosaurus Pod. Early on in the excavation at HBDQ a section of articulated vertebrae was discovered and, based on the visible portions of the vertebrae, the field identification of Ceratosaurus was given.

Ceratosaurus was not an unreasonable identification for theropod-looking vertebrae in the HBD Quarry. Ceratosaurus is known from quarries similar to HBDQ in both Utah and Colorado, including the Cleveland Lloyd Quarry and the Fruita Paleontological Area. (A special shout-out to colleagues and collaborators attending the Mid-Mesozoic Field Conference who just visited both Cleveland Lloyd and FPA this week!)

However, now that the pod is open and the matrix is being worked away the characteristics that fueled the field identification are also being worked away. Such is the case with more field identifications than not, as prep work progresses the identification must be reviewed and refined. So, for now, check out the pictures of the “Ceratosaurus” and stay tuned for more updates as the Burpee Lab Staff reviews and refines their identification of this specimen. (Or, if you like, leave us a comment with your proposed identification!)

The pod, the whole pod, and nothing but the pod

The pod, the whole pod, and nothing but the pod


A closer view of the right side of the image where most of the prep has occurred.

A closer view of the right side of the image where most of the prep has occurred.

Detail of the most prepped area.

Detail of the most prepped area.

29 Days to Homer

More cool installation happening in the SupplyCore Hall of Paleontology in preparation for “Homer’s Odyssey: From the Badlands to Burpee” – the crew from Xibitz has been hard at work most of this week! What do you think will be going on this wall??

More installation elements for the Homer exhibit. (c) Burpee Museum

More installation elements for the Homer exhibit.             (c) Burpee Museum

30 Days to Homer

Today is May 29, 2013, in exactly one month the “Homer’s Odyssey: From the Badlands to Burpee” will premier as Burpee Museum’s newest permanent exhibit!

(C) Burpee Museum

Part of the new “Homer” exhibit. Can you tell what it is?              (c) Burpee Museum

This week the first stages of installation for the exhibit began in SupplyCore Hall of Paleontology, as seen in the picture above. Can you guess what this structure might be for?

We’ll keep you updated as more pieces of this incredible exhibit go up!

Countdown to PaleoFest 2013

My apologies for slacking on the posting front . . . I promise it’s only because we’ve all been working overtime on the preparations for PaleoFest 2013. Please accept this picture of an adorable baby Triceratops skull as compensation for lack of recent blog posts.

This little guy, a cast of UCMP 154452,  will be joining Homer and the other Ceratopsids in the new exhibit when it opens in May. (C) Burpee Museum

This little guy, a cast of UCMP 154452, will be joining Homer and the other Ceratopsids in the new exhibit when it opens in May. (C) Burpee Museum

For those of you familiar with Burpee Museum, you know that PaleoFest is our annual celebration of paleontology and dinosaurs. We normally have special children’s and family-friendly activities at the museum, in addition to public talks by well known paleontologists. This year, however, things are a little different.

PaleoFest 2013, to be held at Burpee Museum on March 2 and 3, 2013, is the 15th anniversary of PaleoFest, and we’re pulling out all the stops! This year we are partnering with the Cleveland Museum of Natural History to present a full scientific symposium titled “The End of the Dinosaurs: Changes in the Late Cretaceous Biosphere” – however, as usual, the general public is welcome to attend the symposium. The symposium will feature 30+ speakers from all over the world, in addition to several student poster presentations on Saturday evening.

In addition to the symposium Dr. John (Jack) Horner will be presenting the keynote address at the Saturday evening dinner lecture. Dr. Horner has published more than 170 professional papers, 9 popular books, and more than 100 popular articles. His book Digging Dinosaurs was described by New Scientist Magazine as one of the 200 most important science books of the 20th Century. Jack directs the largest dinosaur field research program in the world. Jack was the technical advisor for Steven Spielberg on all of the Jurassic Park movies, and on the FOX television show Terra Nova. He has been featured on CBS’s 60 Minutes, National Geographic, and The Discovery Channel. Jack is the Curator of Paleontology at the Museum of the Rockies, and Regent’s Professor of Paleontology at Montana State University in Bozeman, Montana. He is also a Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Paleobiology at the Smithsonian Institution, and an Honorary Research Fellow with the Natural History Museum in London. Jack lectures on dinosaurs, evolution and dyslexia. At the dinner lecture he will be presenting a talk titled “Dinosaur Shape-Shifting.”

We are also still hosting all of the same family-friendly and kid-friendly events. This year Dr. Scott Sampson (“Dr. Scott the Paleontologist”) will be presenting two children’s lectures at the Rockford Woman’s Club/Rockford Theatre as well as a children’s workshop at the museum. We also have two Burpee children’s workshops offered on Sunday. Kids can also complete all of the DinoBlast stations around the museum.

For more details about PaleoFest visit the PaleoFest website or call the museum at 815.965.3433