April 21, 2020

Here’s an update on the sacrum piece we’re working on preparing. I was enthused to open this field jacket and get to work on this fossil. I find it to be more fun & engaging when I start on a new piece than when struggling to finish something that’s become difficult and tedious. Been enjoyable to work on this one so far. I am now getting down to hard cleaning in the deep crevices and curved places making the process more time consuming and generally just a lot slower going. I knew already, but am being reminded that the difficult, highly detailed close up work with hard matrix is just plain hard work.

I need to keep working on solutions or “tricks” to keep my enthusiasm high when the hours really start to add up. It’s most always very fun at first when a new piece is opened up for re-discovery and often a few hours of clearing off the surface matrix starts to reveal the cool fossilized specimen within. But then reality settles in with the tedium of hours spent trying to tease away rock-hard matrix from bone while keeping the bone where it belongs.

The additional issue with this piece, the sacral vertebrae column, is its complexity. A single vertebrae of the size of one of these verts typically takes us 25-30 hours of prep time to clean up for study/display. Well, this sacrum is made up of 7 or 8 vertebrae, multiply that by 25 hours each and we get an expected bench time of around 200 hours for this piece! I get it; just don’t like to look at it head on like that sometimes. I’ve learned the practice of setting aside a piece and working on smaller items to give myself a break. Those breaks are needed to relieve the boredom that can set in when working “too long” on one specimen. Variety spices things up and gives me little episodes of a sense of completion that can be lacking when spending so much time and focus all in one place.

Cleaned up a good handful of micro fossils found last year in Hell Creek Formation sediments. Things like shed teeth and tooth fragments, crocodile scutes, small bone fragments, turtle shell pieces, fossilized gar (fish) scales, sequoia cones, ossified tendons and various small vertebrae parts. It’s interesting for me to study these small fossils, noting the differences in pattern and shapes & sizes. I do need to be aware of my tendency to collect for collecting sake and limit what we choose to excavate and work on. I can’t, and should not, pick up everything we see – focus Steve, focus!

Here’s a photo of some of the cleaned up micro fossils I am writing about –

I’m taking part in a Zoom virtual tour of the workshop for children of a friend’s co-workers. Get that? My friend, Jared, has invited some of his co-workers at SalesForce to join a virtual tour with me to give their kids an outlet during this really difficult time where everyone is physically distancing from others and staying at home so much because of the COVID-19 virus. I feel for all these young ones who can’t be at school, can’t see and hang out with friends, can’t see or easily interact with their teachers. Doing this tomorrow afternoon. Hope it goes well and I’m able to navigate doing a tour this way just using my iPhone and Zoom to “show” the group around the workshop and answer questions.

I also sure miss giving tours, both impromptu and scheduled and miss school visits. Everything is shut down for good reason and it’s hard. I’ll report back here after the session tomorrow to share how it went.