Well, it took forever to get around to a new post, but I have been pretty busy over the last six months. So, having just moved to Texas last week, I'm planning a series of articles documenting the renovation of the fossil prep facility at the UT Austin Vertebrate Paleontology Laboratory over the coming months. As generations of paleontologists are turning over, attitudes towards materials and methods in the field are changing as well, and the goal of this lab is to reflect some of those changes. A large number of paleontologists have been trained in this department over the years, and the VPL is still continuing strong in that tradition. Our plan is to develop a lab that can expose students to the widest array of techniques and materials possible, providing both new preparators and new research paleontologists with an advanced understanding of the requirements for establishing labs, hiring preparators, and providing training. Part of this process is a floor to ceiling renovation of the preparation facility at the J.J. Pickle Research Campus, where both students and professional preparators will be able to participate in classes, workshops, and conferences examining paleontology methods and led by expert instructors from around the world. There are still many unknowns in the process, but part of this blogs purpose is to hopefully work through those issues as they come up, and to both give and get ideas through dialouge. I'll start with a picture of what the lab looks like now, and hopefully follow up in coming days.
Matthew Brown works in a slightly obscure corner of paleontology doing work called fossil preparation. Fossil preparators spend most of their time actually doing what most people think all paleontologists do all day. He has worked for the University of Chicago, Field Museum of Natural History, the National Park Service at Petrified Forest, and currently the University of Texas at Austin. Now residing in Swinging South Austin, he recently lived off the grid in a dome in the middle of the Painted Desert, where his cat Jake was eaten by a bobcat, coyote, mountain lion, or phytosaur. Gustav, Jake's replacement, fared pretty well, and stayed behind in Arizona to guard the house.