dinoLab: Day One

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I visited the museum section of the Wyoming Dinosaur Center yesterday and did the touristy things: visiting the gift shop, taking a lot of pictures, and reading the plaques/info/etc. There are so many good pictures from this adventure that I will probably make a video out of it over the weekend or post them as an album on Facebook (which I will make public).

I also saw the Prep Lab, which is where I worked today, and I am so excited to return tomorrow. To hold a bone from the Jurassic with my own hands, see it, and pull it out of the dirt is an elating experience especially after it takes shape.

A bone mostly removed from the plaster chunk it was transported in:


We arrived at 7:30, got the run down, and started work on a Pubus bone of a sauropod. We were trying to scrape/blow away the dirt and rock (called martix) from the actual bone. I was instructed by the Head Prep Lab guy Bill Wahl (who actually hails from Louisiana).

Like in Jurassic Park (3?), once you got into the work it was easy to tell the rock from bone (even though the fossil is chemically close to the make-up of rock). The bone was black and smooth while the surrounding rock was white and rough.

I first started with a toothbrush, water, and a dental pick using the flat side to scrape (NOT the pick) and worked with the grain of the bone. Then a chemical acetone to remove solidified adhesion (thin glue and an accelerate) that had previously been put on to hold the fossil together during transportation.

Some of the adhesive was still necessary, but other bits had leaked onto the surface, obscuring the lines of muscle wear in the bone. I used a blunt X-acto knife to get under and flick up some loose peices.

My beginning workspace:


One my piece (the mid section) I found muscle scarring, appearing as a knot that obscures the regular lines of muscle imprinted. See the three connected triangles of dirt? That's muscle scarring. Other things to look for were impressions, breaks and odd regrowth, and tooth/bite marks.

After, I used air-pressure tools to saw and hammer away the hard thick rock. The last thing I learned today was the air-abrasion blaster. It used thin stream of pressurized air and baking soda to blast (as the title suggests) difficult pieces of dirt, adhesive, etc.

At a point, I blasted away too much of the dirt, piercing the bone layers, making grooves. Many time, like my mishap, the pieces cannot be recovered. But I learned how to use adhesive myself so it couldn't happen again.

One of the other workers told me that everyone will break a bone and not to worry. Now I've just got to stop gripping the utensils to hard. It's making the joints in my fingers tense up.

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