Solite excavation, Day 4

2014-08-27aLast Saturday we had nice weather for continuing our salvage operation at the Solite Quarry. We were also fortunate to have a lot of additional Triassic expertise, as we were joined by Sterling Nesbitt and Michelle Stocker from Virginia Tech, and Nick Fraser from the National Museum of Scotland. Continue reading

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In the eye of the beholder

Fly with eyesChristina’s first posts at “Updates” – ACD

Fossil preservation is a tricky mistress. And a particularly deceptive one when it comes to invertebrate fossils. As the paleontology technician at VMNH, I am responsible for digitizing the fossils insects in our collection (made possible by NSF through iDigBio). My primary digitizing focus for the past year has been to photograph the insects from Solite Quarry, of which I have photographed hundreds and counting (check them out at During my time staring at my computer screen, going cross-eyed focusing the images for capture, and contemplating the ID of these insects, I sometimes wonder if my mind is playing tricks on me.  One such day came in June when I thought I saw an eye of a fly preserved. Continue reading

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Solite excavation, Day 3

2014-08-20dTwo weeks ago bad weather prevented us from continuing our National Geographic-funded excavations at the Solite Quarry, but last Saturday we were able to continue with our efforts. As is often the case at Solite, we recovered a number of fossil plants, including the partial cycad frond shown above. Continue reading

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Possible traces on a fossil plant?

possible insect bites DB Poli from Roanoke College and her students Travis Lupmkin and Sarah Petrosky have been closely examining our Carboniferous plant fossils from the Boxley quarry in Beckley, West Virginia, in order to make identifications and to look for any unusual features. Continue reading

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All good things…


I first started working for VMNH as an intern in 1989, shortly after the museum opened. In 1999 I started working here full time, initially as the Laboratory Manager and later as Curator of Paleontology. So it’s a little surprising even to me to announce that I’ll be leaving VMNH at the end of the month to take a new position as the Executive Director of the Western Science Center in Hemet, California. Continue reading

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Solite excavation, Day 2

Yesterday marked the second day of our Solite Quarry salvage operation. After spending last Saturday largely planning and scouting, we were able to make a lot more progress this week. Continue reading

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New Solite excavation

Paleontologists have an interesting relationship with quarry operators. By their very nature quarry operations destroy fossils and their geological context. And yet, by exposing new layers of rock quarrying operations lead to the discovery of new fossil deposits that might otherwise never have been found. The two most productive vertebrate fossil sites in Virginia, Solite and Carmel Church, were both discovered as a result of quarrying operations. Continue reading

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