UCMP on display: Exhibits for VLSB (cont.)

fossil heritage, sprinkled with sketches of the people who pioneered California paleontology, including Samuel Welles, who dug up giant marine reptiles from the Central Valley, and Ralph Chaney who studied fossil redwoods throughout the west and pioneered the conservation of living redwood forests in California.

Why does paleontology belong in Integrative Biology?
Modern paleontology isn’t just about collecting, describing and classifying fossils (although these steps are important). Paleontology today thinks about once-living organisms that had to make a living and required specific habitats for survival. Our fossils are part of lineages that evolved and became extinct. To study these lineages, researchers must integrate many different types of evidence. We can’t understand Tyrannosaurus rex if she stands all by herself. We need to understand the world in which she lived. To bring this research reality to life, the

Visitors admire the Triceratops skull in the Library lobby
Visitors admire the Triceratops skull in the lobby of the Biosciences and Natural Resources Library.

  first floor will house a series of exhibits that details the world of T. rex. The case in the south hallway will highlight the evolutionary revolutions underway in the Cretaceous. Free-standing exhibits surrounding the T. rex mount will show her prey and some of the plants that formed her habitat. Visitors can compare these fossils with their living relatives, only steps away, in the planters on either side of the UC-Jepson Herbaria entrance. We also hope to include an internet terminal in the re-designed atrium exhibit so that visitors can learn more about all of the topics discussed in the exhibits.

Why do paleontologists study living organisms too?
Most UCMP researchers study living organisms in addition to their fossil relatives. As one of the founders of modern geology, James Hutton, said: “The present is the key to the past.” Hutton recognized that many aspects of the rock record are hard to interpret without a modern example to which we can compare. For example, curator Jere Lipps studies the tracks and trails sea animals leave on the mud flat in order to interpret similar trails in Precambrian age sediments. Likewise, curator Carole Hickman observes growth in living snails to understand how ancient shells formed. To highlight the vital link between modern and fossil organisms, the first floor exhibit plan also includes a saltwater aquarium (see sketch) that will house a variety of marine invertebrates, Protists and algae arranged as a realistic community. The combination of swimming and bottom-dwelling organisms will illustrate the range of

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