Jim's Pages - Paleontology
When I am in New York, I volunteer at the American Museum of Natural History in the Vertebrate Paleontology Department and in California at the University of California, Santa Barbara and the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. Over the years I have been trained as a fossil preparator. Fossil prep work includes making molds and casts of fossils but the most important and delicate work is freeing the fossil from the rock that encases it. Mostly I work using a binocular microscope and very sharp needles or a mineature jack hammer (air scribe) to chip the rock away from the specimen. This brings new meaning to the word patience.

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An important specimen I have worked on was a Champsosaur. This crocodile like reptile lived 70 million years ago in Mongolia. The original block of stone is shown to the left with a ruler that is 6 inches long. The skull was located in the raised area to the left and is shown prepared to the right. I was also able to isolate about 55 other bones including ribs, limb bones, part of the jaw and various others.
This new Chamsosaur turns out to be a new species and has been named for me! Tchoiria klauseni
This specimen is Scivaruus, an early rodent about 30 million years old from Wyoming. The photo to the left shows the skull when I got it. To the right is the prepared specimen. You can see the palate and two halves of the jaw. The small specimen at the bottom is the petrosal bone which broke revealing two rings of the snailshell-like cochlear. This is the hearing organ in the ear and extremely delicate. The smallest ruler units are 32nds of an inch.
I worked with several other volunteers on an old cast of a T.rex skull. This cast was made about 70 years ago of paper mache and plaster. It had never been painted and mice had chewed on the cast. I repaired the holes and did most of thepainting. The goal was to make it look like the real specimen and I think we did.

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