AMNH, Day 3

16 December 2009. New York, NY

I spent essentially the entire day working on enamel microstructure. After a quick breakfast, I went to the museum and spent another hour (0840~0940) going through the exhibits. Then I went upstairs to examine borophagine enamel, which from Archaeocyon to Borophagus was all done by lunchtime.

[exhibits: the wall of biodiversity, where representatives from all major groups of animals and plants are placed side-to-side for an impressive display of life as we know it; it's displays like this that highlight what a museum can do to inspire wonder!]

[exhibits: the horse evolution section of the fossil mammal hall; the extinct three-toed horse Hipparion raises high above its relatives. I was surprised not to see a skeleton of Hipparion on display; they are relatively common and AMNH sure has the resources to obtain one!]

As far as I could tell, the sky was actually clear this morning. However with wind chill the temperature was still only a few degrees above zero (Celsius). I continued working on microstructure after lunch and finished Epicyon and the rest of Borophagus before moving on to the hyaenids.

[oh I was just studying hyenas when the cabinet next door revealed the holotype of Barbourofelis morrisi; we (LACM) found the first upper teeth of the smaller B. whitfordi in the Dove Spring Formation of southern California...the study is being published in the next issue of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology]

Unfortunately much of the Shanxi hyaenid collection was covered in thick layers of shellac or glyptol (or whatever consolidant they were using in 1920's China!). As a result there was a lot of glare on the tooth surface which meant I could not see the microstructure on many of the specimens.

[examination of enamel microstructure involves shining bright light on fossil teeth to illuminate the internal structure; it takes a lot of tweaking to get the lighting right, and for sure gives you nausea at the end of the day]

By 1600 I was essentially done with microstructure analysis; I had planned to spend the next two days molding specimens for microwear analysis, but that hinges on whether my bag arrives or not!

[a table full of loan tags shows the number of specimens examined each day; a good chunk of the research time involved writing up withdrawal tags so temporarily removed specimens don't get lost. It is a time-consuming but crucial step in good house-keeping and curation]

1720. I wrapped up work a little early today and went downstairs to the Hall of Sea Life with Dr. Ni Xijun to attend the annual holiday party of the AMNH. I was lucky enough to catch it on my trip. In addition to the free food, I got the chance to greet Mark Norell and John Flynn, two of the paleontologists on staff at the museum. Apparently I also shook hands with the AMNH director, but I did not know her by name or by face.

[the Hall of Sea Life the morning before the annual AMNH holiday party]

All in all a good day of work, food, and schmoozing.

Please, I need my bag by tomorrow!



mu a said...

oh, is that Jack? it's a good picture to show a boy without his bag. hhaah,just kidding~

Spencer said...

Mark Norell??? OK, now you're just name-dropping....

Hey, I can't blame you. Remember that time I said to you, "So, is there anyone here I should know?"

Zhijie (Jack) said...

Ha ha I remember...Mark is very personable

Spencer said...

Excellent! I imagined so. Which reminds me, where is his colleague Dr. Novacek at this time--not the AMNH?