Once upon a time in México

Sorting through my files as I prepare for the upcoming field season, I came across my notes for our two-week field trip to México in March 2008.

[quiet Saturday morning in front of the catedral in downtown Aguascalientes]

Xiaoming and I flew to Aguascalientes to meet our collaborator, Dr. Oscar Carranza of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.

[the small but mobile field crew in Zacatecas]

For two weeks, we prospected around southern Zacatecas, discovering lacustrine and fluvial deposits containing fossils of Hemphillian age.

[Oscar and Jack jacketing a gomphothere tusk at the Aposco Ranch locality]

[a classic photo of Xiaoming standing next to a larger gomphothere tusk]

The excellent weather and muy delicioso food made the beautiful central plateau of México an unforgettable place to work. Our discoveries included fossil horses, pronghorns, borophagine canids, gomphothere elephants, and a single sloth wrist bone.

[a fossilized horse toe bone]

[two of the many stone tools we saw around rocky outcrops]

Viva la México!


The fossils danced

Southern California experienced a magnitude 5.4 earthquake today. The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County was evacuated, but no major damages were reported, at least in the Department of Vertebrate Paleontology.

[my favorite Hyaenodon toy fell over during the earthquake]

The specimen cabinets in the Mesozoic Collection room were seen swaying in a north-south trending direction. The specimen racks on the back deck of the department also showed visible transverse movement.

[a pile of magazines fell from the desk in the collection manager's office]

The museum was closed for approximately one hour while staff checked for damages. It was a perfect chance to get the departments outside into the sunshine and have lunch together. The Department of Vertebrate Paleontology had ribs for lunch.

[A coffee mug drips day-old coffee on a work bench in the preparation laboratory]


California, here's to thee...

25 July 2008 Berkeley, California

Today is the last day of my week-long trip in Berkeley. I have wrapped up filming at the Research Station for the Study of Behavior, Ecology, and Reproduction, and photography at the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology.

The MVZ boasts one of the largest single collection of wild spotted hyena research specimens in North America; thanks to previous work by Dr. Lawrence Frank, the University of California, Berkeley is a unique place linking the behavior (at the Research Station), morphology (at the MVZ), and evolution (at the UCMP) of bone-cracking predators that I am studying as part of my dissertation.

[Kombo, a 9-year-old female, glances at observing scientists as we prepare the bone feeding experiment]

[Kombo working on a distal humerus of cow]

[Winnie, 14-year-old male, works on a complete cow femur]

This past week represents the longest time I have spent back in Berkeley since leaving the green city for graduate school in 2005; the trip brought back memories of my natal days as an academic-in-training in the Valley Life Sciences Building, the home of the Department of Integrative Biology.

[View from the entrance of the University of California Museum of Paleontology; the same building also houses an outstanding herbarium, science library, and the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology]

During my stay, I also heard news about the grand re-opening of the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park. On 27 September 2008, the Academy will re-open the largest natural history museum public exhibits in northern California.

[a model of the HMS Beagle on which Charles Darwin took his maiden journey around the world's oceans from 1831-1836]

CALifornia, here's to thee.