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USGS project update

by Erica Clites

We've had a busy summer at the Regatta facility [UCMP's off-site collections facility in Richmond] rehousing the former USGS Menlo Park collection. The crew of two graduate students (Renske Kirchholtes and Camilla Souto), six undergraduates (including Marianne Brasil who is now a new graduate student in the Hlusko lab; see Tidbits), and five volunteers rehoused seventeen new cabinets worth of material in a mere 12 weeks!

Renske worked on the USGS Alaskan and Arctic locality data, adding 10,403 new locality records to the UCMP database. She is also leading the effort to design an educational module that incorporates the USGS collection. Our proposed module will allow/guide K-12 students and other citizen scientists to identify the types of fossils from each photographed locality. Camilla spent the summer curating material collected by USGS geologist John G. Vedder. Using a combination of publications, original field maps and online databases, Camilla was able to add or update information for over 600 localities.

Tony Barnosky had a close encounter with some rhinos
Jeff Benca's roof garden
Two dolphins glide by Lindsey Dougherty
Click on any photo to see an enlargement. Left: Undergrad Olivia Tullier (left) organizes a drawer of fossils while project coordinator Erica Clites confers with volunteer Don Pecko. Photo by Kathy Zoehfeld. Middle: Undergrad Michelle Sparnicht with a stack of drawers for the new collections cabinets. Photo by Erica Clites. Right: Undergrad Gina Hwang with one of the new collections cabinets. Photo by Erica Clites.

We also want to take the opportunity in this issue to salute the undergraduate student workers. Their dedication to the rehousing project always impresses me, their enthusiasm is contagious and I love deciphering the more unusual fossils together. Gina Hwang, Dianne Quiroz, Michelle Sparnicht, Olivia Tullier and Alexis Williams have all worked three or four semesters on the project. I hope you enjoy their reflections.

USGS undergraduates
Gina Hwang, Molecular and Cell Biology major; has worked four semesters on the USGS collection

My summer at the Regatta facility was an amazing experience. Why? The people involved with the project have been great — Erica, the graduate students, my fellow student co-workers. Working with the specimens has been so fun, and the history — especially through the eyes of the collection documents — has been incredible. Also, I'm proud and glad of the progress that we made during the summer!

Olivia Tullier, Integrative Biology major (graduated summer 2014); has worked four semesters on the USGS collection

Working as a museum assistant on the former USGS Menlo Park Collection in the UCMP was one of my fondest experiences at Cal. Since I began working on the project from its early stages, I was able to witness the collection's transformation from a mysterious disarray of boxes to a current established collection. Some of my favorite memories from the project include photographing the specimens, assisting in identifying their ages, and preparing Cal Day exhibits. However my greatest experience working with the Menlo Park Collection was learning its history through discovering letters and documents from the early 1900s. During the early stages of the project, every newly opened drawer resulted in more specimens and letters describing how and where they were discovered, along with information on their collectors. I enjoyed uncovering the background history of major figures like Cliff Nelson and Warren Addicott and their contribution to the study of paleontology. Overall, working at the UCMP was a great experience that allowed me to explore my interests in natural history with a new perspective.