Blog by VMNH Paleontology Intern, Paige Dzindolet
I am a rising senior attending Roanoke College and am working towards a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology and a minor in Biology. I recently began a summer internship at the Virginia Museum of Natural History, which counts as a class credit towards said Biology minor. I chose this internship partly because I have always loved natural history museums and have been interested in dinosaurs and ancient creatures for as long as I can remember (I grew up on Jurassic Park and The Land Before Time) . I believe that this will be a great opportunity to see what all goes on behind the scenes and I expect to learn about a variety of topics and procedures involved in the curation of numerous fossils. I also hope to gain experience working within a professional setting, as well as learn about my strengths and interests within the field.
This is my second week interning at VMNH. I have been working within the Paleontology Department and have mostly spent my time in the collections room putting together an identification guide for the arthropod fossils found in the Cow Branch Formation at Solite Quarry, located at the Virginia and North Carolina border. This task entailed searching through the museum’s fossil database and grouping pictures of the specimens from Solite Quarry together within their taxonomic class, order, and/or family. Each group has pictures of the fossils, and most have a picture of a modern insect from said group, followed by a written description that is intended to be helpful in identification. The purpose of this task is to create a visual guide in order to help myself, along with future students and staff to identify arthropod fossils. While this guide may seem like a small task, I feel like I have already left my mark during my time here which makes me feel pretty proud. My experience has been fantastic so far, everyone has been so friendly and very open to all of my questions (I am very curious).
The other day I was introduced to the prep lab and was able to assist in the cleaning of a dinosaur bone (possibly a hip bone). I was nervous at first – what if I break the bone or break one of the tools? Turns out, the tools are not as scary as I thought they were. The bone stayed intact and the process is very meditative, for me anyways. Though prep work can be time consuming, I found it satisfying. I am very excited to continue helping around the museum and look forward to the experiences and memories that will be made during my time here.