The process of managing this phase of the project begins with receiving the fossils. Field paleontologists are often on site during construction projects like this one and James Paul Walker, a mitigation paleontologist was on the scene to identify and set aside any fossils found during excavation. Large shipments of fossils then made their way to the UCMP, with the very last shipment arriving in July 2019.
Senior Museum Scientist Cristina Robins managed the lab and preparation of this material with the help of graduate and undergraduate students and volunteers. Many hours of labor were put in to break the fossils free from the iron-rich rock. The actions of chiseling and hammering to split the rock often produced small sparks.
In preparing fossils of this kind, the team kept two things in mind: rocks are hard, fossils are delicate. There were a few challenges in separating intact fossils from the stone. At times contrast between the fossil and the surround rock was often difficult to see, the surround rock was so hard that removing the fossils required both power and finnesse, and the geology of the area sometimes delivered fossils that were broken or crushed.
After preparation, sorting and organizing for cataloging begins. Many of the fossils that can be handled will be kept in the museum while some of the bigger and heavier fossils are kept at our off-site facility.