Adventures at the Florida Museum of Natural History

My name is Ariel Guggino and I’m a PCP-PIRE museum intern from the University of Puerto Rico. I study geology mostly because I am interested in the field of paleontology. I have previously worked with invertebrates, studying the functional morphology of a rudistic bivalve known as Antillosarcolites sp. I also had the privilege to present a poster at the Tenth International Congress on Rudist Bivalves in Bellaterra, Spain. As a PCP-PIRE intern I decided to work with vertebrates, learning the techniques in fossil preparation such as cleaning, reconstruction and cataloging vertebrate fossils. Also for the PCP-PIRE research I decided to work with paleobotany. Guess you could say that I’m really expanding my horizons.

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Painting the fossils

It’s been three weeks since I started working as an intern at the Florida Museum of Natural History, which so far has been an amazing experience. The first day of work the other interns (Andrea, Justy and Will) and I had a tour of the museum’s collection and learned some fossil preparation techniques. Since then I have worked with crocodilian teeth, horse teeth, turtle shells, turtle and croc limbs, and fish and reptilian vertebrae. Working with these fossils, especially fish vertebrae, has to be done with delicacy because any brute movement can damage the specimen. But sometimes it’s inevitable; there are times when the solidified sediment that is surrounding the specimen is so hard that the fossils may break, and that’s when the super glue comes to the rescue. After the fossils are clean they are painted, by this I mean taking the specimen and painting a line with a small brush in a corner of the fossil that shows no significant feature and identify it with a number. By doing so we ensure that it doesn’t get lost.

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Working with the leaves from Tennessee

By the end of the second week we, the interns, and our supervisor Nathan Jud had a meeting, where we discussed our research options. After having some experience with invertebrates and now learning to work with vertebrates, I decided to do research in paleobotany. I’m working with describing the morphotype of fossilized leaves that were collected from the Claiborne Formation located at Dawson, Tennessee; these leaves date late Eocene. The first step in identifying these specimens is to divide them by group, such as tooth margins or smooth margins, the arrangement of their primary and secondary veins as well their shape and size. After these observations are done the temperature gradient and the paleoecology of the area can be determined within this time period.

Everything that I have done until now in the museum has been very exciting but the best is still yet to come. In less than two weeks I will be traveling to Panama, exploring a new country, a new culture, and discovering new fossils. Can’t wait for the adventure of a lifetime.

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