|Carole Hickmans research takes place both in the field and the laboratory, utilizing a variety of skills and techniques to gather data.|
Collecting fossils in the field
Hickman encourages researchers to spend time taking notes on a fossils surroundings before excavating it, noting that Once youve pulled a fossil out of the rock, youve lost information about its relationship to where it was preserved, how it was preserved, and the spatial relationships with other things it may have been preserved with.
Once fossils are brought back to a museum, they are prepared for the collections, which involves stripping away surrounding matrix [sediment encasing the specimen]. It is important to note the size and mineral content of the matrix grains because this information can provide important information about the fossils history.
Because imaging techniques can permanently alter the photographed object, Hickman first decides what she wants to learn about a specimen before selecting a technique.
Different imaging techniques used on the same animal give you completely different results, explains Hickman. For instance, when you cover anything with gold [to do SEM], you lose any color pattern that the organism had.
She continues, You have a limited amount of material to work with. You would like to collect different kinds of information, but you cant get all of them with the same technique, and sometimes you cant get them all from the same specimen.
Keeping up with the literature
If youre going to integrate material from a number of different fields, you cant just be in one field and casually borrow from the rest, warns Hickman. You want to be in the laboratory, or in the field, but you also need to keep up with your reading for inspiration and correct information.
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