Every fall, vertebrate paleontologists from around the world come together for the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology annual meeting. This year’s conference in Toronto, Canada provided an opportunity to share research, catch up with colleagues, and build new connections. Ten FHSU faculty, staff, students, and alumni were able to make the meeting, including three current students and two museum staff members. Sternberg Camps Director David Levering organized an education symposium entitled “International Community Connections” in which he co-authored a presentation about teaching high school summer campers science skills using online platforms. Curator of Paleontology Dr. Laura Wilson also presented in this symposium with two FHSU Geosciences undergraduate students, current senior Kaiden O’Dell and recent graduate Riley Sanford. Their presentation shared experiences teaching and learning science communication skills in the classroom. Geosciences graduate student Shyla Davison gave a talk to fellow museum professionals on “Examining data collection, archiving protocols, and data accessibility in fossil preparation labs”. Alec Zaborniak, also a second-year graduate student in Geosciences, presented on his research reconstructing mosasaur paleoecology in the Western Interior Seaway that covered central North America ~80 million years ago.
FHSU and the Sternberg Museum made a splash this year, growing our reputation as a leader in Western Interior Seaway research, museum studies, and science education. We are immensely proud of all our students and alumni!
Paleontologists and science educators at Fort Hays State University’s Sternberg Museum of Natural History were recently in the news for their contributions to Kansas paleontology. Reporter David Condos of High Plains Public Radio and Kansas New Service wrote a wonderful piece (audio and text) on Kansas paleontology featuring stories and quotes from Curator of Paleontology Dr. Laura Wilson, Paleontology Collections Manager Dr. Aly Baumgartner, and Camps Director Mr. David Levering. Check it out!
UPDATE: Condos’s segment was picked up by NPR national and aired on Morning Edition!
“If we didn’t have these sediments,” Fort Hays State University paleontologist Laura Wilson said, “we would just be looking at the dinosaurs on land. And that’s only half the picture.”
In case you missed it, Dr. Laura Wilson was featured on the popular paleontology podcast Paleo Nerds in Spring 2021. Check out her interview (and the incredible splash page the Paleo Nerds team put together). Laura talks to Ray and Dave about the geology and ecology of the Western Interior Seaway – the ancient ocean that covered central North America 100-66 million years ago. Much of the information known about the animals and ecosystems in this Seaway comes from Wilson Paleo Lab research and the Sternberg Museum’s paleontology collections.
Paleo Nerds is hosted by paleoartist Ray Troll and ventriloquist David Strassman. Ray and David never lost their childhood enthusiasm for science and all things paleontology, and now share their enthusiasm through engaging interviews with paleontologists and science educators from around the world. Check out past podcasts for a spectacular line up!
In 2016, the Sternberg Museum’s Paleontology Department was awarded two National Science Foundation (NSF) grants to support collection improvement projects. For the past two years the collection staff has been working hard on grant initiatives, so we wanted to update you on our Year 2 progress!
This year we added 89 new specimens to the collection, bringing the collection’s total to 21,634 fossil records.
Imaging specimens is a priority of both grants, and over the course of Year 2 the collection staff has captured 7675 photographs of fossils. This includes the entire invertebrate fossil collection, as well as a couple hundred vertebrate fossils. Images can be viewed on the new (grant-funded) online database that was just launched this summer. More photos are being added regularly.
Additionally, two vertebrate fossils have been 3D scanned with more planned for the next year.
Data-sharing is a big NSF initiative, and we are part of multiple collaborations to make the Sternberg Museum’s fossil data accessible to everyone. Data and images are not only shared on our new database, but images from the Western Interior Seaways fossil collection are also available on the Cretaceous Atlas of Ancient Life. During a summer workshop, we hosted Kansas middle and high school teachers to develop teaching activities using museum data and fossil pictures. This will take the Sternberg museum’s fossil collection into science classrooms around the state (and beyond).
Through these grants, five graduate and 12 undergraduate Fort Hays State University students have been funded to work in the paleontology collection. In the course of their work, they have been exposed to new scientific research, new software and technologies, and a different view of natural history. They have also gained valuable experiences with teamwork, independent work, data management, and organization.
With one more year left on each grant, we are looking forward to more imaging (2D and 3D), data sharing, collaborations, and professional development opportunities. Please follow the FHSU paleo program on Twitter @FHSU_Paleo for collection updates!