Panama, Millipedes, and Research…Oh My!

I ended last month doing a lot of fossil preparations and started the month of March in Panama. Having spent a rainy February in doors it was great to get out into the field and looking for fossils. They were early mornings and long days filled with lots of sun. Spending days out by the canal was a great experience. Having collected at other sites that had abundant specimens it was great to experience other sites with fewer and harder to find specimens. One site, newly opened, on the east side of the canal produced hundreds or new specimens of both shrimp claws and crab carapaces.

Me looking for Millipedes, and plant fossils

Me looking for Millipedes, and plant fossils

On the first day we went to several of the sites we could later spend more time at. The second site we went to is known as Las Cascadas. It was at this site on a previous trip that Dr. Aaron Wood found a rare fossil millipede. We spent about half of a day looking for any more but had no success in finding another. The rest of the week was spend at several other sites on both sides of the canal looking for crabs and other invertebrate fossils. While several of us spent time at other sites the vertebrate contingent made several great finds at the Las Cascadas site. Continue reading


Sweet Home Alabama!

For the past few day I have been in Alabama with Prof Steven Manchester and his class IMG_20150328_083224885_HDRsearching for fossilized leaves. We departed from the Museum at 1 pm on Friday and arrived in Birmingham, Alabama  at 9 pm. We rested for the night at a hotel and early in the morning headed to Cahaba Environment Center at Living River. At the site we meet up with other professor from the area whom would be our guides. Continue reading

Digital Paleontology

Diagram of how CT scanning works. (courtesy of

I think many people these days are familiar with CT scanning, or its cousin, the MRI, even more so. But many probably don’t know how it works. Using x-rays shot thru an object in successive slices, a layer by layer analysis of a structure can be performed. When stacked together, these images can digitally reconstruct an object and its insides.

Continue reading

PCP-PIRE on the MioScene – PCP-PIRE y la radio

Last week, our supervisor Jorge Moreno Bernal posted on the blog that we made the front page of La Prensa, one of the top-two national newspapers. Well, this week, we’re on the radio!


Left to Right: Sophie Westacott, Jorge Moreno Bernal, Louissis. In the studio!

A few days ago, the PCP-PIRE team in Panamá headed to the studios of Panama’s national public radio station for an interview with Louissis, a woman who has been the host of a popular radio show for twelve years running (Momentos con Luissis). We positioned ourselves in front of the microphones and began to talk about the work we do in the canal, our experiences living in Panama, and the upcoming talk that Jorge is giving at the Smithsonian’s facilities in Punta Galeta, near the Caribbean port of Colón. Continue reading

Faults of the Empire

Sonia sketching the outcrop

Sonia sketching the outcrop

In a previous post Sonia explained the paleohistory  of the isthmus, from its volcanic  beginnings to recent sedimentation. This history has been pieced together by geologists interpreting the rocks wherever they poke out of the thick tropical vegetation.  We look at how the rock layers are stacked, at the size of the crystals or sediment grains that compose them, at the color the rock turns where it is exposed to air and water. A limestone suggests a shallow marine setting, while a basalt is evidence of volcanism. Continue reading

Una breve historia geológica de Panamá

(in English)

IMG_0588Según nos hemos enterado, el grupo de visitantes de la Universidad de Florida acaba de regresar de su visita en Panamá; durante el cual pasamos mucho tiempo buscando fósiles en el canal. ¡Los pasantes del museo probaron por primera vez el sol de Panamá!  El viaje salió muy bien, y muchos fósiles fueron descubiertos. Continue reading

Fossil Friday 3/20/15: A ghost shrimp

This Fossil Friday, I’m excited to share a fossil shrimp that was just described in a publication by FLMNH Postdoc Adiël Klompmaker and colleagues! Fossils of this new ghost shrimp, called Glypturus panamacanalensis, were found by M. D. Burkenroad in 1959, who collected from Holo-Pleistocene dredgings on the Amador and Farfan beaches at the entrance of the Panama Canal. Specimens of this shrimp have also been found in Florida and Cuba, and modern members of the genus Glypturus live in the salty waters of the Western Atlantic, the Indian Ocean, the southwest Pacific, and the Red Sea.

Glypturus panamacanalensis propodus

UF 248032, the outer and inner side of the right propodus of Glypturus panamacanalensis. The propodus consists of the “palm” and the fixed finger. (Excerpted from Klompmaker et al. 2015)

Continue reading

Panama Trip and Squirrel Fossils

As the other interns have previously stated, our trip to Panama over Spring Break was a huge success! Here’s my take on it:

Panama City was an amazing place to visit and I thoroughly enjoyed exploring the city. My favorite part however was the time spent in the field. I mostly spent my time at Las Cascadas. Many cool fossils were found (protoceratid skull, snake vertebrae, horse teeth, and many more) and although it was hot we had a great time. I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I also was able to explore a few marine sites and find various crab and shrimp fossils which was really fun and different for me. Below are some pictures from the trip.

Nathan doing what he does best!

Nathan doing what he does best!

Continue reading

Spring Interns in the news.

Journalist Irlanda Sotillo and Photographer Maydeé Romero Sprang recently visited the DSC_0123Center for Tropical Paleoecology and Archeology (CTPA) of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI), and met the PCP-PIRE field interns. We told Irlanda about the field activities in the canal area and showed her several samples recently collected by the interns. Continue reading