Science Scouts

I’ve spent the last week madly trying to pack for my upcoming Carmel Church excavation while buying a truck, finishing a manuscript, and working on two different SEM projects (more on those to come), which has cut into my blogging. However, inspired by Julia over at The Ethical Palaeontologist, tonight I went through the badges at the Science Scouts site to see what I’ve earned. The troop badge is shown above. So how did I do?

The Rock Licker Badge

“In which recipients have honed their palate to distinguish fossil from bone, since licking rocks purely for fun is kind of weird.”


The thing is, it really works!

The “Science deprives me of my bed” badge, Level III

“In which your science, due to Lab work or fieldwork, dictates at least a full month away from your bed.”

I’ve done this in Wyoming and at Carmel Church. I also had a year in which I was in the field 30 out of 52 Saturdays.


The “I actually grew up AND became a paleontologist who studies dinosaurs” badge


“Out of the millions of children who aspire to work with dinosaurs, this recipient is actually someone who does precisely that.”

I guess the dinosaur part is somewhat debatable. For that matter, on one excavation Tim asked me my favorite number, and when I replied “8” he asked “Is that because you act like you’re 8?”

The “What I do for science dictates my having to wash my hands before I use the toilet” badge

Trust me, you do NOT want Paleo-Bond on your hands when you go to the toilet!

The “I may look like a scientist, but I’m actually also a pirate” badge

“Drinks rum. Into pillaging and stuff. Soft spot for evolutionary biology.”



Great, now I want a piña colada…Arrrrrgh!


The “I didn’t bathe at all for an entire month because of science” badge


“Ah, the joys of field work…”



We tried, really. We set up a plastic screen with a garden hose. But when the air temperature was 110 F, and the water was about 50 F, it was just too painful. Besides, when you’re dirty enough, the mosquitoes and black flies leave you alone.


The “Has done science whilst under the influence” badge


“This can apply to both achieving moments of intellectual clarity or actual performance of an experiment whilst under the influence. It presumes talking about science under the influence a given.”


After all, I am a paleontologist. One eminent paleontologist told me “I’m sorry, but as far as I’m concerned beer is as important to field work as a hammer or plaster. It’s a necessity.”

The “Works with acids” badge

In which the recipient has worked with acids.”

When I was a graduate student, Brett and I set up an acid lab at LSU for removing microvertebrates from carbonate rocks using acetic acid–600 gallons at a time! Now Anna and I are using hydrochloric acid in our diatom work. But no hydrofluoric acid; people that work with that stuff are nuts!

The “I’ve set fire to stuff” badge, Level I

“In which the recipient has set fire to stuff, all in the name of general scientific curiosity.”

You see, Andy Moore and I were taking a soils class when we were undergraduates, and the instructor said “In Ireland they used to burn peat for heating”, and there was a peat bog near campus, and a Bunsen burner in the lab, so we had to find out…

It also turns out that powdered non-dairy creamer is one of the most flammable materials on Earth.

The “World’s foremost expert on an obscure subject” badge

In which the recipient is the leading expert in a field that few others share an interest in.”

OK, this is debatable (there are some other very knowledgeable people on this subject), but I do know a lot about squalodont whales:

The “Somewhat confused as to what scientific field I actually belong to” badge

“Also known as the transdiscplinary, interdiscplinary, multidisciplinary, or intradisciplinary badge.”

My last four papers (author or co-author) were on Cambrian stromatolites, Miocene land mammals, Triassic reptiles, and Miocene whales.

The “Experienced with electrical shock” badge, Level III

“In which the recipient has had experience with the electrical shocking of himself/herself.”

When the light switch breaks in the collections room of a huge, very old museum building, you would think that someone with 11 years of post-high school education would know better than to try to fix it with an uninsulated pocketknife.

 The “Have used a dental drill and I’ve never been a dentist” badge

We’re not sure if this is a specialist badge. We do hope so, though.”

I do work in a paleo lab, after all…

The “I know what a tadpole is” badge

You’ll have to go to the Science Scouts website for the explanation on this one.

But I do know what a tadpole is…

The “I’ve done science with no conceivable practical application” badge

“There are probably more who are deserving of this badge than you would expect.

Hello, paleontologist here…


The “I blog about science” badge

“In which the recipient maintains a blog where at least a quarter of the material is about science. Suffice to say, this does not include scientology.”

and the “Talking science” badge

Required for all members. Assumes the recipient conducts himself/herself in such a manner as to talk science whenever he/she gets the chance. Not easily fazed by looks of disinterest from friends or the act of “zoning out” by well intentioned loved ones.”

To my mind, these are are kind of the same thing. You just can’t see the people zoning out when you’re blogging.

The “MacGyver” badge

“In which the recipient has demonstrated that his/her science communciation prowess was handy in simplifying a potentially challenging scenario. For example, was able to escape from unjustified prison term, with the clever use of a paper clip and WD-40. You know, that kind of thing.”

So we were excavating at Carmel Church in 2003, and we had a pretty good-sized whale skull exposed:

With big jackets we always use pipes or boards as braces to reinforce the jacket. But that year I had forgotten to get lumber, and we didn’t have any pipes. I was going to go into the woods and cut down some trees, but we also forgot the saw, and didn’t have a hatchet. It turns out that on the quarry property some beavers had dammed a stream to make a pond:

Beavers sometimes cut down trees for their dams and then decide not to use them. We found some abandoned trees in the woods:

They fit our skull perfectly:

In the end we had a beautiful jacket, thanks to the beavers!

So, not a bad haul on the badges! This weekend I head to Carmel Church, and as usual I’ll be posting daily updates.





This entry was posted in Carmel Church Quarry, Chesapeake Group, Science, education, and philosophy. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Science Scouts

  1. Julia says:

    Ahh, Killians Irish Red – I joined the Black Hills Institute back in 2002, and this was the Beer Thirty refreshment of choice.

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