Avulsion fracture of the proximal phalanx due to a repetitive stress injury of the ulnar collateral ligament. Not what I wanted to hear going into the field season. Utah Geological Survey preparator Scott Madsen (formerly National Park Service) has given several talks about the frequency of work related injuries in paleontology over the last ten years, and the safety message always bears repeating.
This joint has been hurting for a few weeks, but since my body (hands and arms in particular) is always feeling twinges or aches I ignored it, as they always go away at some point. But not this time. After bumping my thumb on a doorknob and feeling an explosion of pain that was clearly not tendonitis, I decided to have it looked at. The initial diagnosis was a strained or torn UCL, and the radiologist called the next day to inform me that the bone was fractured as well. This injury seems to be consistent with a condition called Gamekeeper's Thumb, or when acute, Skier's Thumb.
There wasn't a single traumatic event that immediately led to the pain, I know that I first took note a month ago during Game 5 of the NHL Eastern Conference Finals. While at a bar watching the Rangers lose, I remember asking for a cup of ice to numb the pain in my thumb. Earlier that day I had been trying in vain to open a consolidant bottle that was firmly glued closed, I hate to think that event may be what triggered the fracture, but I suppose it shouldn't be ruled out. Since posting the xray on Facebook, I've since heard from a number of colleagues who have experienced similar pain. The takeaway is that joints and bones aren't supposed to hurt like hell all the time, and it is worth having these things checked out before long term damage is done. If you've suffered work related injuries in the lab or field, let me know and I'll pass the info along to Pedro Viegas, who has been collecting data on similar injuries. For hand safety, he recommends these anti-vibration gloves.
My next few weeks are doomed to taking it easy and wearing a goofy looking (and quite uncomfortable) cast to immobilize the thumb. Hopefully I can be good and give the hand some time off from airscribes, chisels, pinvises, shotguns, truck ignitions, shirt buttons, using a fork, taking off socks, driving stick, sculpting, writing, typing.... Jeez, I sure use my right thumb a lot.
Madsen, S. 2002. Work-related injuries and illnesses related to preparation and fieldwork. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, Supplement to No. 3
Madsen, S. 2008. The Preparator: a survivor’s guide. First Annual Fossil Preparation and Collections
Symposium, Abstracts of Papers 1:14
was published last month by Amy Davidson and Greg Brown. It is about the practical use of Paraloid B-72 in the paleontology preparation and conservation lab, and is precisely the paper I've been waiting my whole career for someone to write. I'm very glad it was Amy and Greg, this is THE reference that anyone who handles fossils must read. It thoroughly covers methods for application, manipulation, and storage of Paraloid B-72, and provides excellent justification for the selection of B-72 in many paleontological applications. I've very excited to include this paper as required reading in my Paleontological Laboratory Methods class next semester. Even though I've used this material frequently for more than a decade, I still learned a lot reading their work. There is also another excellent paper in this edition on collections management by some of my UT colleagues. But actually, this post isn't really about these great papers.
I have been waiting to provide a review of "Paraloid B-72: Practical tips for the vertebrate fossil preparator" since I got a sneak peak of the paper in April at the Seattle FPCS meeting during Amy's Paraloid B-72 workshop. My hard copy of Collection Forum arrived in my mailbox in early May, but I wanted to hold off until the PDF was available on the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections (www.spnhc.org) website so that I could link to it. Current year PDFs of Collection Forum are only available to SPNHC members, which certainly makes sense as a method for encouraging membership. But as of tonight, the 2011 link is the most recent available. Even so, I wasn't too inclined to gripe about that, until I heard, much to my dismay, that Collections Forum may be going digital only. I hope this isn't true. I realize that $25 is very inexpensive for a membership that includes a journal subscription. But I would be extremely willing to pay more, if this were a question of financial hardship for the organization. For the same reason I still buy CDs and DVDs. Even Bluray discs. I'm a museum professional. I'm astounded that a museum collections organization would abandon paper for an untested technology like PDFs. I'll wager that only one of them will be in an accessible format 300 years from now. Plus, I'm over the age of 19. I can't read long papers on a computer screen. Sadly, when I finally print out that PDF, it likely won't be on archival paper.
The immediate question of access is still an interesting one. I bet the overwhelming majority of people who absolutely need to read this paper are not members of SPNHC. Though they should be. The goals of this organization are worthy, and I want to support them. I have several papers and books in progress right now, and I was sure that SPNHC was the venue for at least some of them, but now I question whether that is true. The goal of authorship is dissemination of information, and while none of our citation rankings are going to be sky high for these topics, if I want my colleagues to have as ready access as possible to my work, I think asking whether Collection Forum is the place for them might yield interesting discussion. At the least, I'd expect PDF author copies for immediate dissemination. Additionally, even though all back issues are available as PDFs, I didn't see it in JSTOR and neither of my institutions have a subscription to Collection Forum. And one of these is a Museum Studies program.
However, by all means be encouraged to join and support SPNHC! Amy and Greg's paper alone is worth the 25 bucks.
Davidson, A. and G. Brown. 2012. Paraloid B-72: Practical tips for the vertebrate fossil preparator. Collection Forum 26(1--2):99-119
Molineux, A. et al. 2012. GIS, the key to collections management of a large research archive. Collection Forum 26(1--2):60-69
The Royal Tyrrell Museum is pleased to announce that we will be hosting the 6th Annual Fossil Preparation and Collections Symposium, in April 2013. The symposium will take place from April 20 to 22, with a mixer and early registration the evening of April 19th and a tentatively planned full day field trip to Dinosaur Provincial Park April 23rd.
We are in the initial stages of planning, and are actively soliciting ideas from everyone for workshops you would like to see. We will be distributing a list of workshop ideas that was generated in-house at the Tyrrell in the next week or so.
Realizing that it is a long way off yet, it would be great to get a rough idea of attendance to aid in planning. Please let me know via email if you think you can make it. As planning continues, we will update via the Prep list and also on our web page: www.tyrrellmuseum.com.
The following 2-year, full-time, fossil preparator position was recently posted. We are seeking a preparator to work on vertebrate fossils from the Panama Canal. The job entails working for periods of time at both the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville, FL, and at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama City, Panama.
Please feel free to contact me with any questions... thanks!
Jason R. Bourque Senior Preparator Division of Vertebrate Paleontology Florida Museum of Natural History Dickinson Hall, University of Florida Gainesville, Florida 32611 email@example.com
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.