My name is Elizabeth Mizikar, and I am a rising senior at Pennsylvania State University. I am majoring in Geobiology and plan on pursuing graduate school in the future. Recently, I began a five week internship at the Virginia Museum of Natural History in the Paleontology Department. Over the last two weeks, I have gained a lot of experience working in the Prep Lab.
On the first day of my internship, I joined the museum on a field site excavation. Throughout the day, I sorted through piles of rock at the Solite Quarry. By the end of my day, I had found a number of plant and coprolite fossils. Overall, it was a great start to my first week.
During that first week, I began preparing a field jacket containing bones of a sauropod. Within the jacket were two vertebrae discovered in 1998. I used various tools to reveal the bone from the matrix rock and, by the end of the week, I had uncovered the two caudal vertebrae along with a partial rib bone. Unfortunately, the vertebrae are covered in an iron concretion, so I had to start on a new project.
Last week, I began preparing smaller sauropod bones. Each day, I carefully remove small amounts of matrix from the bones using a pin vice, an air abrasion machine, and a microscope. Progress is slow but I still enjoy it. At the beginning of this week, I also had the opportunity to assist in molding a mastodon skull. Additionally, I spent some time assisting another intern in cleaning shark teeth.
I have really enjoyed my experience so far and I can’t wait to see what the next three weeks hold.