In 2016, the Sternberg Museum’s Paleontology Department was awarded two National Science Foundation grants to support collection improvement projects. “Implementation of a relational database for the Sternberg Museum paleontology collection” is funded though the Collections in Support of Biological Research program, and “ The Cretaceous World: Digitizing Fossils to Reconstruct Evolving Ecosystems in the Western Interior Seaway” is funded through the Advancing Digitization of Biodiversity Collections program. The collection staff has been working hard to refine and archive data, curate new specimens, photograph fossils, and build a database, so we wanted to update you on our progress!
Over the course of the year, almost all of our hand-written ledgers have been transcribed into a digital format; they will soon be archived in a new database being tailored specifically for the Museum’s paleontology collection. Collection cabinets have been reorganized, specimens have been rehoused, and data tables have been cleaned up. 2,105 new specimens have been cataloged into the collection, bringing the curated total to 21,545 fossil specimens (19,147 vertebrates and 2,398 invertebrates). 342 invertebrate fossil specimens have been photographed. We have presented project updates at two conferences: the Association for Materials and Methods in Paleontology and the Kansas Academy of Science.
Thanks to these grants, we have also been able to fund four graduate students and 11 undergraduate students to work in the paleontology collection and be trained in collection management and digitization techniques. They have been exposed to primary research, new software programs, aspects of natural history previously unexplored, and have gained valuable experience working in groups, working individually, with recordkeeping, and in organization.
We still have two more years on both grants, so we are looking forward to continue collection improvement and working with new students. In the next few weeks, we should be finalizing our new database, which will be accessible by the public via our website. For now, you can see some of the images of Sternberg Museum fossils on cretaceousatlas.org, and you can follow the paleo department on Twitter @FHSU_Paleo for collection updates.