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More new faces at UCMP

Erica Clites

Erica working on 550-million-year-old fossils in the Ediacaran Hills of South Australia while a master's student in Mary Droser's lab at UC Riverside.
New Museum Scientist Erica Clites to manage USGS fossil collection
Growing up in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Erica Clites says her early training as a scientist benefitted from a Girl Scout summer program led by graduate students at the University of Nebraska. Visiting Ashfall Fossil Beds as well as other parks of geological significance as a high school student exposed her to the excitement of geology and paleontology in the field.

Erica attended the College of Wooster in Ohio, majoring in geology and minoring in German. After graduation she received a Fulbright Scholarship to teach English to 5th–13th grade students in northeast Germany. Erica returned to continue her studies and a master's thesis on Ediacaran faunal systematics at UC Riverside in the Mary Droser lab.

Excited about opportunities to promote research in geology and paleontology to the public, Erica spent time in Washington, DC, pursuing internships at the National Academy of Sciences and the National Park Service. She was instrumental in launching the first National Fossil Day with the National Park Service and received an award for her efforts. Additional experience with the National Parks was gained as a science technician at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in Arizona where Erica managed a monitoring program for fossil sites and fossil collections in one of the largest recreation areas in the system.

Starting at the UCMP in December, Erica is busy physically organizing the USGS fossil collection from Menlo Park currently at the UCMP Regatta facility in new, museum-grade cabinets. As part of a two-year NSF museum improvement grant, the USGS collection that will be rehoused at the UCMP contains over 170,000 invertebrate fossils from more than 12,000 localities. Reorganizing, relabeling, and digitally capturing the material so it can be properly archived and incorporated into the UCMP collection will be a large task and one well suited to Erica's skills, training and interests. Erica is enthusiastic about continuing on in a career that works to improve the availability of paleontology resources in ways benefitting large communities of users.

Jason Carr

Jason sits beside a jacket containing the jawbone of a Miocene amphicyonid representing the largest and most complete fossil carnivoran yet recovered in Panama.
Meet Jason Carr, the new fossil preparation lab manager
Jason Carr grew up along the Central Coast of California, in Santa Maria, surrounded by Miocene geology.

While attending Santa Barbara City College, Jason had the good fortune to take courses with geology instructor, Robert Gray, whose field courses resonated with Jason's growing interest in geology and paleontology. Jason then transferred to the South Dakota School of Mines (SDSM), where he was exposed to courses in fossil preparation and museum curation and an opportunity to intern at Ashfall Fossil Beds in Nebraska. With field and research opportunities in paleontology around every corner, Jason entered the master's program in geology at SDSM and later applied for a position with the Panama Canal Project affiliated with the University of Florida. He spent seven months recovering new and important fossils uncovered during excavations as part of the ongoing expansion of the Panama Canal.

Jason could not pass up an opportunity to return to California to accept a position at the UCMP managing the fossil prep lab. Supervising undergraduate students and other volunteers in the lab, Jason and team are focusing on the Miocene fossils from the CalTrans Caldecott Tunnel 4th Bore project. Plants, fish scales, molds and casts of small invertebrates, and occasional teeth and bones of large mammals such as horse and rhinoceros are among the collection.

Jason's balance of duties include reconstructing fossils that are part of the UCMP collection. He is currently working on careful reconstruction of a phytosaur jaw bone collected by John Muir and is also reassembling a partial jaw and frill of a Dilophosaurus dinosaur collected by Sam Welles. Having received his training primarily in geology, Jason says working at the UCMP provides a great opportunity to interact more regularly with biologists and ecologists, and he looks forward to eventually returning to graduate work and to a career that involves teaching as well as paleontology research. Jason says the best thing about returning to California in October 2012 was the timing—it coincided with the Bay Area celebration of the Giants 2012 World Series win!

Erica Clites photo courtesy of Erica Clites; Jason Carr photo courtesy of Jason Carr