Office of University Relations
SDSM& T News
501 E. St. Joseph Street • Rapid City, SD 57701- 3995
Phone: ( 605) 394- 6082/ 2554 • Fax: ( 605) 394- 6177
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 26, 2000
Steve Buchholz, Public Information Manager, 394- 6082
Carrie Herbel, Museum of Geology collections manager, 394- 2487
Museum offers fossil preparation classes
Merle Swenson works slowly, brushing aside bits of shale with a paintbrush and removing tiny pieces of stone with a dentist’s pick.
Gradually, a bone emerges. It is probably from a seafaring creature from the Cretaceous Period. It could be 70 million years old and Swenson is first person, besides the paleontologist who discovered it, to see it.
But Swenson is not a paleontologist. He has never studied it. And he’s not being paid to work on the fossil. He’s learning the skill through a volunteer fossil preparation program offered by the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology Museum of Geology.
Once Swenson attends a few of the classes, he will be able to work on his own at Tech’s museum or at The Journey Museum in Rapid City. He already volunteers at The Journey and believes knowing more about paleontology will make the museum a better place for visitors.
“ It adds a lot to our customers’ tours if we have people in the labs that they can watch do their work and ask questions,” he said.
Swenson, the Western Satellite office coordinator for the South Dakota Local Transportation Assistance Program, is also interested in the geologic history of the Black Hills.
“ This training increases my knowledge of the Black Hills area,” he said.
Carrie Herbel, Museum of Geology collections manager, teaches the free classes.
“ This is the real thing,” she said. “ We try to make it exciting right from the beginning.”
During the classes, you learn basic fossil preparation and conservation techniques, including how to cut fossils from their plaster casts. Museum staff provide tools. All you need to bring are clothes that you won’t mind getting dirty.
You could work on bones from mosasaurs, giant pigs, ancient rhinos and camels or dinosaurs. Tech students and professors discovered the fossils during summer fieldwork. This year’s trips were successful and productive and the museum has a large backlog of fossils that need to be preserved and cataloged.
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Cutting into that backlog is one the of program’s benefits. The other is teaching volunteers an interesting skill.
“ We want to get the word out that fossils are important and we want to increase volunteering in the community,” Herbel said.
Herbel suggests attending at least four sessions before beginning work on your own. She may ask you to attend more depending on how quickly you pick up the intricacies of the work.
Jon Boone of Rapid City started the training in January. He now works at his leisure once a week at The Journey and at the Museum of Geology. On a recent Saturday at Tech’s prep lab, he made final preparations to mosasaur bones before they officially entered Tech’s collection.
“ When students come to watch, I tell them that no one has ever seen this bone before,” the 63- year- old Boone said. “ They think that’s kind of cool and that’s the same thing that attracts me.”
All sessions run from 1 p. m. to 4: 30 p. m. in the Paleo Prep Lab in the basement of the Old Gym on the Tech campus. The training dates:
Saturday, Nov. 4
Saturday, Nov. 18
Saturday, Dec. 9
Call Carrie Herbel at 394- 2487 for information or to guarantee your spot. Each session is limited to eight people.
( I: univrel/ pressrel/ 0700 )
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Devereaux Library. South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.