What's New in the Collections
UCMP prep lab panorama with Xena Ross, Ash Poust, Pat Holroyd and Cristina Robins; photo credit Helina Chin. Pat Holroyd standing watch over Delta Design cases delivered to the Valley Life Sciences Building; photo credit Diane M. Erwin. Desmostylus tooth preparation progress by Ash Poust, photo credit Helina Chin.
New cases for new fossils
Thanks to support from two NSF grants, UCMP was able to purchase much needed casework to house its growing collections. The eight three- foot high cases will house the SFSU Kettleman Hills collection and four four-foot high cases will house Dori Contreras' dissertation collection of plant fossils from the Turner Ranch in New Mexico, a site now known for producing the most diverse Cretaceous fl ora discovered thus far in North America.
Re-opening the Prep Lab Assistant Director Mark Goodwin and Senior Museum Scientist Cristina Robins received fossils from the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) Calaveras Damn project. Cristina started as the UCMP fossil prep lab manager in June 2017 for a two-year position. UCMP is working in partnership with the SFPUC to accession, prepare, and curate the fossils found at the Calaveras Dam site near Sunol. Many excellent fossils were obtained from the site and provide important paleoenvironmental data on the area. The collection includes vertebrate, invertebrate, and plant fossils preserved from the Miocene-aged rocks surrounding the Calaveras Dam construction site. The dust of disuse was traded for the dust of active preparation in the prep lab. The main vertebrate fossils being worked on are whale skulls. There are 17 skulls from the Calaveras site, with the largest over 4 feet long (1.2 m). They require many hours of meticulous concentration to painstakingly separate. Luckily, UCMP has funding from SFPUC for graduate and undergraduate students to work in the prep lab. Currently, Graduate student Ash Poust is working in the lab, with undergraduates Xena Ross, Peter Dangsangtong, and Sidhant Idgunji rounding out the workforce. Xena, Pete, and Sid will be returning next semester. Graduate student Mackenzie Kirchner-Smith will also join in Spring 2017.
New Prep Lab Manager
The UCMP was pleased to welcome Cristina to the UCMP staff this past summer. She is an invertebrate paleontologist by training and has a love for all fossils. She earned her PhD from Kent State University in 2013, working on fossil squat lobsters (sister group to hermit crabs; Jurassic-Recent). After a short stint as a curatorial assistant at the Florida Museum of Natural History, she became the project manager for the salvage paleontology project known as PCP PIRE (Panama Canal Project), an NSF-funded program to excavate the fossils from the construction zone surrounding the expansion of the Panama Canal. This was a collaboration principally between the University of Florida and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.
Cristina Robins in the Osher Rainforest at the California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco; photo credit Cristina Robins. A jacketed whale skull being lifted by a crane from the Calaveras Dam site; photo courtesy of James Walker.