New lab equipment

This morning the guys from the VMNH Building and Grounds Department delivered a custom-made sandbox that they’ve been building for the lab this week.

Large fossil bones are often very fragile, even after being cleaned and glued. In fact, large bones often cannot support their own weight, which presents a problem when we’re trying to clean or study them. To get around this problem we reconstruct large bones in a sandbox. That way we can pile the sand up under the high points in the bone so that it’s supported evenly across its entire length. It also allows us to set bones at angles at which they would fall over if they were just sitting on a table. We often have to do this to hold two fragments at the proper angle to each other while they are glued back together.

That has presented a problem for us at VMNH, because a large number of our vertebrate fossils are from either dinosaurs or whales–two groups not exactly known for being tiny! So B&G built us this table-sized sandbox, which is large enough to hold the skull of any species of whale found at Carmel Church so far (except Eobalaenoptera), as well the largest dinosaur bones we’ve collected. (They’ve promised that if we find a complete skull of Eobalaenoptera they’ll build me an even bigger sandbox.)

So thanks to Building and Grounds for helping us out with this box, which will really speed up our whale preparation.

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4 Responses to New lab equipment

  1. Aydin says:

    I would like to see pictures of the sandbox being used.

  2. Alton Dooley says:

    The photo at the top of the February 4 post was a closeup taken in the sandbox:

    There will be more coming soon.

  3. Dan Omura says:

    I think that sandbox would be of more use in some poor museum down in Lima, Peru… Don´t you think so Alton? hehehehe

    Congrats on your new sandbox!

    Just one observation, based on what we use here. Wouldn´t it be better if it was maybe a little bit deeper?

    I really like your blog!! 🙂

  4. Alton Dooley says:

    At least in Lima you can get sand easily…I have to go to the store and BUY sand!!!

    The sandbox is 6 inches (about 15 cm) deep, although it’s not full of sand at the moment. It should be deep enough for any whales or dinosaurs we currently have in our collection, especially since baleen whales have pretty flat skulls. But they’ve promised to build me a bigger one if I find something that needs it.

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