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Saluting our volunteers

Doug Clarke Dave Strauss adjusts lighting Dave Strauss with camera and laptop

Left: Doug Clarke begins the daunting task of organizing the papers of micropaleontologist Robert Kleinpell. Middle: Dave Strauss adjusts the lighting prior to photographing a Triceratops jaw. Right: Dave's camera is set up to photograph something very small and transparent on a light table. With the camera hooked up to his laptop, Dave can instantly see if adjustments need to be made with the lighting, exposure, etc.

The tasks at UCMP are many and vary widely and our staff resources are limited; so it is always gratifying when volunteers walk into our lives and offer up a talent, a dedicated passion, and the ability to get the job done. We salute and thank these volunteers past and present, and in this issue, we highlight two such individuals—a retired physicist and a photographer.

The man with the camera
"Big specimens or small — I'm happy to help capture the photographic images you need." That is the message from UC alum and now UCMP volunteer Dave Strauss, who happily has become an integral part of our community. In January, Dave sent an email inquiring about volunteer possibilities at UCMP and providing a bit of background information: 40 years in various technology industry jobs, both as a technologist and in various management positions; lives close to the campus; long-running amateur interest in biology/evolution; active hiker and mountain biker; and active photographer … and the suggestion that he might be able to contribute to some project or program. In February he began spending at least one afternoon a week with us, serving the varied photographic needs of faculty, staff, and students.

Dave faces a diversity of technical challenges as he works on different projects, e.g., with Mark Goodwin to capture unwieldy Triceratops fossil fragments or with graduate student Theresa Grieco to take photographs of tadpole jaw tissue for her tooth development research. He is also assisting with the UCMP archive project, documenting and digitizing historical records, and even lantern slides. Dave's willingness to experiment with lighting, lenses, and artistry has paid off — he has helped at least seven different researchers get great images for their work. He finds he is learning more about photography as his paleontology collaborators push the boundaries of optics and camera technology with unusual requests, and he is also learning more about the science behinds the specimens as he is able to quiz them about the most current research projects going on in the UCMP. And for UCMP, it sure is great to have such a talent on board — thanks, Dave!

Fossils and Chaney lantern slide

Left: Dave Strauss photos of two of the first fossils to be reposited at the University of California Berkeley, decades before UCMP came into existence. Right: One of Ralph Chaney's lantern slides (it appears to be hand-colored), photographed by Dave Strauss on a light table. The slide, circa 1940(?), shows Chaney looking out across a village square in what might be Mexico or somewhere in Central or South America.

Chaney glass negatives

A selection of Ralph Chaney's glass negatives photographed on a light table by Dave Strauss. The top two date from 1912, the year Chaney earned his bachelor's degree at the University of Chicago. The photo at top left shows Chaney (standing back right) with his parents and three sisters. The bottom two photos may have been taken the following year during a USGS expedition to Alaska on which Chaney served as the cook.

Cataloging the archives

Doug Clarke creates online finding aids

Doug Clarke creates online finding aids for Robert Kleinpell's correspondence.
 
Just about one year ago, Doug Clarke, a retired physicist and longtime Friend of UCMP, was looking at an article in the May issue of UCMP News regarding our Mellon Foundation-funded archives cataloging project and perked up when he read "So this summer … the museum may recruit volunteers to assist in the data entry." That June, Doug sent us an e-mail saying that he'd be interested in working on the cataloging project. A week later he was given the task of organizing and making sense of the extensive and scattered papers of Robert Kleinpell, who taught micropaleontology and stratigraphy at Cal for 25 years.

It took several months, but Doug completed that task and is now quite an expert on the life of Kleinpell. He genuinely enjoyed studying the reams of Kleinpell's professional and personal correspondence. If Doug wanted to, he could probably write a fine biography about the man! Now he's busy making online finding aids using Archon, software designed for just such a purpose, in this case so that researchers can easily locate all the Kleinpell-related documents.

Doug was a member of the Earth Sciences Department's Computational Physics Group at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory when he retired in 2005, and that's when he first started thinking about volunteering at UCMP. But when he saw that article in the May 2011 newsletter, that's when he decided to contact us. And we're glad he did!

And a salute to our student helpers
Also on the archives project, we had Amanda Burtt, a "veteran" volunteer at UCMP and a graduating senior, working on the reorganization of folders and the creation of finding aids for the papers of vertebrate paleontologist Ruben Stirton, a collection that fills six cartons (Stirton was with the museum for 38 years, 18 of them as Director). Amanda began her relationship with UCMP in the spring of 2011. Prior to her work with the archives, she organized the type invertebrate collection, did general collections management, and photographed specimens, as well as packed/unpacked invertebrate fossil loans.

We also hired three talented undergraduates for the spring semester through the University Research Apprentice Project (URAP):

  • Alex Schwarz, with a real writing talent and an attention to detail, repackaged and created the finding aids for all of paleobotanist Daniel Axelrod's papers and field notes and is now working on the papers of micropaleontologist Zach Arnold, who taught at Cal for 18 years.
  • Kathryn Rieck worked with us this semester, dealing with the papers of former Museum Scientist Joe Peck and the field notes of Charles Camp.
  • Cindy Kok was given the difficult task of creating finding aids for a variety of ledgers containing collections information and for the oil company records of invertebrate paleontologist J. Wyatt Durham. By the end of the semester, she had begun placing lantern slides from the teaching collection of paleobotanist Ralph Chaney into archival sleeves.

Kathryn Rieck Cindy Kok

Left: Kathryn Rieck adds details to the online finding aids for Charles Camp's field notes. Right: Cindy Kok labels archival sleeves for each of Ralph Chaney's lantern slides. See our Cal Day article for a photo of Alex Schwarz.

Thanks to all these people, we've made excellent progress in identifying what we have in our non-fossil collections, in rehousing them in archival-quality containers, and in creating online finding aids for researchers. The cataloging project will always be a work-in-progress, but you can explore what's publicly available now.
 

Photos of Doug Clarke, Kathryn Rieck, and Cindy Kok by Dave Smith; photos of Dave Strauss by Theresa Grieco; all other photos by Dave Strauss