About UCMP

The adventures of Flat Stanley at UCMP

Flat Stanley

• Flat Stanley returns to UCMP in 2012! Read on …

UCMP is delighted to be part of the Flat Stanley Project. As you can see, it is pretty easy for Flat Stanley to slip inside an envelope and visit friends all over the world. Our Flat Stanley came to us from a first-grader named Cole who attends St. John the Evangelist School in New York. Cole is fascinated by fossils and dinosaurs and wants to grow up to be a paleontologist. Flat Stanley spent about a week with us here at UCMP and had many interesting adventures.

"On my first day here, I met everyone at the University of California Museum of Paleontology (UCMP) during something they call "Fossil Coffee." This event happens each Tuesday and gives museum staff, faculty, and students a chance to chat with one another while munching on treats and drinking coffee. This is usually followed by a talk and slide show of some sort so everyone can learn about the research of everyone else."

With Dilophosaurus

A visit to the Prep Lab
"Following Fossil Coffee, my adventure began when Jane Mason, Senior Preparator at UCMP, happily escorted me to the Fossil Preparation Lab. Click on any of the photos below to see an enlargement.

"In the Prep Lab, Jane showed me bones from the dinosaur Dilphosaurus wetherilli. This was a meat-eating dinosaur that has two crests on its head. It was made famous by the movie Jurassic Park as the spitting dinosaur — however, there is no fossil evidence that it could spit. Here I am in the sandbox with the skull of Dilophosaurus. The sand is used to support the fragile bones of the skull while it is being repaired. I was amazed at how thin the bone of the crest is as it curls over — like a thick potato chip.

With Hydrotherosaurus

"Elsewhere in the Preparation Lab, some of the bones of the plesiosaur Hydrotherosaurus alexandrae were laid out on a table. Hydrotherosaurus was a swimming reptile with paddles instead of arms and legs and it probably ate fish. It had a very, very long neck and lots of teeth sticking out of its jaws. Strolling among the plesiosaur's ribs, I could see that it must have been a very impressive creature."

On to the Collections
"The next day I went into the fossil collections. When I first walked in, it didn't look like much — just long rows of metal cabinets. But every one of the cabinets was filled with drawers of fossils. And I got to see some pretty special ones.

Rows of cabinets hold the fossil collection

"This drawer was hard to pull out because this fossil is really heavy. It is an ammonite (much like the modern nautilus) and it lived in the seas a very long time ago. But what was really neat were the holes. Can you see them? These might have been caused by a large marine reptile called a mosasaur that bit down on the ammonite thinking that it might make a nice meal!

With ammonite fossil bitten by a mosasaur

"Look at this plant fossil — doesn't it look like it's from a modern cone-bearing tree? Can you see the needles and the little cone? Well, this fossil, found in Oregon, came from a tree that lived about 15 million years ago!

With fossil needles and cone from a cone-bearing tree

"These leaves I'm looking at now were found in Utah and Colorado. You can clearly see the midrib and veins, yet these fossils date back to the Eocene, more than 40 million years ago!

With leaf fossils

"Some of the fossils in the collection are even older than that. Here I am looking at some very, very old fossils. I thought 40 million years was really old, but these are imprints left from some of the very earliest multicellular animals that lived around 540 million years ago! These fossils were collected along the White Sea in Russia. The UCMP paleontologists travel all over the world to collect fossils."

With UCMP's T. rex

A day with the dinosaurs
"On Day Three, I spent a lot of time with dinosaurs. Right outside of the UCMP is a cast of a complete Tyrannosaurus rex. He was really big! Can you find me in this picture? If you click on the photo, I'll be easier to spot.

At the feet of the T. rex

"This T. rex was found in Montana by a lady rancher. She saw some bones sticking out of the ground and then contacted Jack Horner at the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Montana. It turned out to be almost a complete skeleton, which is pretty unusual.

Adult and baby Triceratops skulls

"Upstairs from the T. rex is the Biology Library. I went in there and saw two Triceratops skulls — one was really, really big and the other was much smaller.

With the smallest known Triceratops skull

"I felt much more comfortable with the little one. It is in fact the smallest Triceratops ever found. Mark Goodwin, assistant director of UCMP, found it a few summers ago while he was doing field work in Montana.

With Triceratops horn and Stegosaurus plate

"Then I went up to the fifth floor of the Valley Life Sciences Building to the laboratory of Professor Kevin Padian and his graduate students. I really got face to face with dinosaur bones on this visit. Here I am perched between a shoulder plate from Stegosaurus (on the right) and a piece of a horn from Triceratops (on the left). Have you ever been this close to a dinosaur?

Dinosaur bone embedded in blocks of plastic glue prior to being sliced up for study

"Now I am inside a dinosaur bone — well, sort of. Paleontologists embed a piece of a dinosaur bone inside plastic glue until it hardens. Then they slice up the bone-glue block and make microscope slides so that they can see details of the inside of the bone. This tells them how the dinosaur grew, how old it was, and other interesting things. The blocks around me are pieces of a cut-up bone that are ready for slicing.

Andrew Lee studies slides of dinosaur bone

"Graduate student Andrew Lee kindly let me observe as he studied one of these slides."

From lizards to snails
"During the weekend, I spent some time with two UCMP graduate students, Randy Irmis and Jann Vendetti. Even though they both study fossils, they look at living animals too and make comparisons. This day Randy was looking at the bones of two animals: a green iguana and a lizard common to the American Southwest. Here are the boxes of these bones. Randy is interested in studying the tooth shapes of these lizards in order to compare them to the tooth shape of extinct reptiles.

Randy's lizard bones

"I got to spend some time with snails too. That is what Jann studies. This is a whole drawer of snails in the family Buccinidae that come from Mexico and Japan. Jann is interested in looking at the growth and development of these snails' shells so she can make comparisons with related snails that lived 30 million years ago. The shells in the front of the picture are set up to be molded, so Jann will have copies to study.

Jann's snails

"Then I got to watch Randy apply a green-colored molding material to the tips of the shells — the tips preserve the earliest formed part of each shell and these are what interest Jann the most. These small green blobs are made of a plastic-like compound that dentists use to make a copy of people's teeth and it works just fine on shells too. When these molds are dry, Jann will take them off and make copies from them. Then she will use a powerful microscope (called a scanning electron microscope) to study their shapes."

Making molds of shell tips
Donning my diving gear

Swimming with the octopus
"Next on the agenda was a visit to the lab of Professor Roy Caldwell, director of UCMP and a marine biologist who studies cool animals like mantis shrimp (stomatopods) and octopuses. Professor Caldwell asked me if I'd like to visit Ruby, one of the lab octopuses. This sounded very exciting, so, donning my diving gear, I prepared to enter the aquarium.

Ruby gives me the tour

"Upon entering the aquarium, Ruby welcomed me, and wrapping me in her arms, proceeded to give me a tour of her home.

Ruby gets hungry

"There came a point when I realized that Ruby was thinking of me not so much as a visitor but more as dinner, so, signalling for help, Professor Caldwell kindly pulled me free of Ruby's grasp. Although it was kind of scary, it was also really exciting to swim with an octopus — how many kids get a chance to do that!"

"By the way, I found out from another graduate student, Nick Pyenson, that another Flat Stanley had visited UC Berkeley not too long ago. He was from Nevada and he toured around the campus, visiting sites like Sather Tower (the Campanile), but I bet he didn't have as much fun as I had with all my new paleo friends at UCMP!"

On to more adventures
"Now I'm off to visit Vietnam and Cambodia! I hope to give you a full report of my travels when I return. Bye for now!"

Another Flat Stanley at the Campanile

Flat Stanley in Vietnam and Cambodia

The mountains around Sapa in northern Vietnam

In northern Vietnam
"Hi! I just got back from my trip to Vietnam and Cambodia! First, here's how you say hello in Vietnamese: 'sin chao' (pronounced 'seen chow'). So 'sin chao!' and let me tell you about my trip. I had a great time traveling with my new friend, Jennifer Skene — she took really good care of me.

"First, I took a train to a town called Sapa, in the mountains in the north part of Vietnam. The mountains were so cool! There was a lot of fog and mist."

A water buffalo
With Hmong girls

"In the valleys, there are rice fields, and lots of water buffalo. The water buffalos pull plows to help people grow rice. Rice is the main crop grown in Vietnam.

"While I was in Sapa, I made some new friends. These girls are Hmong — the Hmong people live in the mountains of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. I'm not very good at speaking Hmong, but luckily these girls could speak English."

Road block and gate
Thac Bac waterfall

"While I was in Sapa, I really wanted to visit a waterfall. To get to the waterfall, I had to ride on a motorbike. Most people in Vietnam get around on motorbikes. It is very rare to own a car. Most taxis are motorbikes, not cars. The Vietnamese word for motorbike taxi is 'xe om,' which means 'moving hug.' It is pronounced 'say ohm.' At first, riding a motorbike was really scary — the road was really bumpy and there was a lot of dust everywhere, making it difficult to see. But then I found out that the road was so bumpy and dusty because people are building a new road. We had to wait at a few roadblocks while trucks hauled around piles of rocks. Can you see that the gate at the roadblock is made of a piece of painted bamboo?

"Finally, after riding through flying dust and gravel, we made it to the waterfall. The waterfall is called Thac Bac waterfall. It is pretty high (about 300 feet), but there was not a lot of water flowing because it is the dry season. In this part of Vietnam, it only rains in the summer."

A Hanoi bridge

"After I visited Sapa, I went to Hanoi, the capitol of Vietnam. Hanoi was a very busy city, but I don't have many pictures of it because I got food poisoning and didn't feel too well. This is a picture of a bridge that goes to a little island on Hoan Kiem Lake, in the middle of Hanoi."

In central and southern Vietnam
"From Hanoi, I took a train to Vinh, a small city in central Vietnam. I visited Vinh University and met some students who are studying English. I was the special guest in the English class. The students asked me all kinds of questions. I got to tell them about my trip to Berkeley and the UC Museum of Paleontology!"

An English class at Vinh University in central Vietnam

"Then it was on to southern Vietnam and Ho Chi Minh City, the country's largest city. It sure was a busy place — look at all those motorbikes!"

Busy traffic in Ho Chi Minh City

"I got to accompany Jen on a boat ride through the Mekong River delta. Here we are passing a floating market."

A floating market on the Mekong River

"Going ashore at one point, we were welcomed by a group of friendly children — I like Vietnam!"

With children along the Mekong River
At Angkor Wat

In Cambodia
"Next I went to Cambodia! I went to a town called Siem Reap, which is really close to the temples at Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat is very famous — a true marvel! The temples are Hindu and Buddhist, and they were built out of sandstone between the 9th and 15th centuries."

A carved face at Angkor Wat
A smiling apsara at Angkor Wat

"Each stone is intricately carved, with pictures of faces or dancing fairies called apsaras. The photo on the right is of the only apsara who is smiling and showing her teeth!"

Goodbye to Angkor Wat

"Sadly, we had to leave southeast Asia. Jennifer and I flew back to Berkeley where the U.S. Postal Service then returned me to Cole in New York. But now I have this terrific urge to travel …."

All Berkeley photos by UCMP staff, faculty, and/or graduate students, March 2007. Vietnam and Cambodia photos by Jennifer Skene, April 2007.