2023 Workshops and Collection Tours

Workshops and collection tours during the meeting are free with your registration for the Annual Meeting. However, you MUST register for these workshops by following the link you receive in your registration confirmation email. Spaces are limited!

Demonstration workshops, Roundtables, and Working Groups will be offered virtually as part of the hybrid format. Traditional hands-on workshops will only be offered in-person.

After registration opens, this page will be updated daily to indicate which workshops are full.

Pre-Conference Workshops

Be-leaf-able Plant Preparation

Level: Beginner

Leaders: Alex Lowe, Conni O'Connor,  Paige Diebel Wilson

Classroom

Workshop leaders will present case studies on plant fossil collection and preparation methods and techniques from three very different plant fossil sites: Florissant Formation (CO), the Emerald Creek LagerstÓ“tte (ID), and the Hell Creek area (MT). Our presentation will cover the entire journey of plant fossil collection including excavation and field prep, lab preparation (i.e., removal of matrix by air scribe and pin vise, adhesives and consolidants, labeling, etc.), and concluding with storage environment and housing. This workshop is aimed at all levels, especially beginners to plant preparation and fossil preparation, in general. There will be ample time for discussion during the classroom session and sharing of lessons learned and best practices.

Hands-on Demonstration

Our workshop will also include some hands-on demonstration of plant fossil preparation. This portion of the workshop will include demonstrations and hands-on application of adhesives and consolidants along with different methods of matrix removal. There will be opportunity for further discussion during this portion of the session, depending on time and interest.

We will provide examples of plant fossils from a few different lithologies for demonstration and practice. We will provide tools and PPE (borrowed from the Burke Museum) but ask that participants wear close toed shoes and long pants for this portion of the workshop.

Participants do not need to have any experience with plant preparation, or fossil preparation in general.

Roundtable

This last session of the workshop will entail a roundtable discussion where participants are welcome to bring their questions or issues concerning preparation of plant fossils. We will discuss best practices and lessons learned and hope to share community knowledge!


Workshop Type: Hands-on

Maximum number of participants per session: 20

Duration of session: All Day

Number of sessions: 1

Paleohistology

Level: Intermediate

Leaders: Bryan Gee, Zoe Kulik

This workshop teaches hands-on skills on how to make thin sections of fossilized hard tissues. You will learn the processes of embedding bones into epoxy, sectioning on a precision saw, mounting specimens onto slides, and grinding slides on a lapidary wheel to optical clarity. This workshop will introduce you to the machinery needed to start a histology lab and help troubleshoot the specific challenges that different fossils present (e.g., heavily permineralized material, dark vs. light fossils, porous or fractured specimens, etc). As we have a lot of work to do in one day, we will provide fossil specimens to use during this workshop.

Workshop Type: Hands-on

Maximum number of participants per session: 5

Duration of session: All Day

Number of sessions: 1

Basic Level Workshops

3D Scanning & 3D Printing in Paleontology

Level: Basic

Leader: Michael Holland

This workshop will offer both demonstration of and active participation in the 3D scanning process using the 3D imaging system available in the Burke Museum Paleontology department. Methods and tips for a successful 3D capture will be offered, including:

  • proper specimen orientation
  • movement of scanner vs. movement of specimen
  • understanding image overlap during capture
  • use of supplemental objects for tracking/registration
  • selection of 3D reconstruction software parameters
  • creating physical models from scans with 3D printing
While the workshop will utilize one specific brand of scanner and software (Artec), the concepts demonstrated apply to 3D surface scanning in general and are useful with any 3D scanner. Observing the operation of the 3D reconstruction software will enable participants to develop greater understanding of how a 3D image is made, and thus understand what the scanner user can do to achieve the most useful outcomes.

During the workshop participants will be given an opportunity to operate the scanner and software themselves for experiential learning. Examples of end uses (information/data sharing, exhibit production, educational aids, fossil restoration, etc.) will be discussed, as the intended end use can have influence on decisions made during scanning. A completed 3D model created by the group during the workshop will be started on a 3D printer at the end of the workshop, completing the transition from virtual to physical object. (As the printing can take several hours, workshop participants will see the finished 3D printed model later during the conference.)

Workshop Type: Hands-on

Maximum number of participants per session: 14

Duration of session: 3 hours

Number of sessions: 2

Creating and Implementing Dual Anatomy/Inventory Workflow Guides

Level: Basic

Leaders: Jess Miller-Camp

Inventories are awesome, but anatomy is a lot. Let’s work with a guide to make both things easier at the same time. Participants will learn about good workflow and inventory design, then work through a sample element inventory of turtle skeletal material using provided documents and specimens. The provided example will be for turtle osteology, but this process can be adapted to other groups and projects (e.g., bird osteology, Mazon Creek Fm pteridophyte leaves).

Many collections rely heavily on volunteers or previously-untrained hourly employees to complete tasks that take less experience or field-specific knowledge to fulfill, such as inventories. Having specific, explicit inventory workflows is one way to minimize the intentional and unintentional process modification often made workers during the course of their time on a task. 

Specimen inventories are common in collections, but detailed element inventories? Not so much. They can be incredibly useful, but require much more specific anatomical knowledge than your average person has. Gaining a good understanding of anatomy is a lengthy process, which becomes a problem when a supervisor has to devote too much of their time to training new, ephemeral workers.

By combining pictoral and verbal guides of anatomical possibilities with the element inventory workflow itself, mistakes should be minimized and efficiency increased. Workers should have relevant process and material information in front of them at all times without needing to search for it except in unusual cases. Workers doing quality control of inventories will similarly have immediate access to information that will make some mistakes more obvious, such as a count of one type of element beyond what would be present in a single specimen.

Workshop Type: Hands-on

Maximum number of participants per session: 25

Duration of session: 3 hours

Number of sessions: 1

Custom Box Making

Level: Basic

Leaders: Siri Linz, Laura Phillips 

Archaeology collections managers share box-making tips while they provide hands-on instruction to participants who will each create an archival box for a selected Burke Paleontology fossil.

Workshop Type: Hand-on

Maximum number of participants per session: 10

Duration of session: 1.5 hours

Number of sessions: 1

GIS for Field Paleontology

Level: Basic

Leader: Melissa Macias

Accurate mapping of fossils is an important aspect in paleontological fieldwork. Using technological advances in GIS applications for desktop computers and mobile devices, combined with sub-meter accuracy GPS receivers, it is possible to precisely map fossils during surveys. These applications allow users in the field to plot points and gather data, while simultaneously analyzing the data back in the lab. With sub-centimeter accuracy, it is possible to plot the location and position of individual bones within a bone bed.

This workshop will focus on the ESRI suite of web and mobile applications for use in paleontological fieldwork. Participants will gain experience in:

  • Creating maps in ArcGIS Pro desktop
  • Uploading existing maps and data to Arc Online
  • Creating dashboards to monitor data in real time
  • Using ArcGIS Field Field Maps mobile application to gather data in the field
  • Creating and using Survey123 forms

The workshop will be a combination of instruction and hands-on experience in each of these applications and participants will learn how to customize each to fit their needs. Participants will need to bring a laptop and mobile device, and have either an existing ESRI account or 21-day free trial version. Weather permitting, the second half of the workshop will be held outside to simulate field usage of the applications.

Workshop type: Hands-on

Maximum number of participants per session: 20

Duration of session: 3 hours

Number of sessions: 1

Illustrating Fossil with Pencils

Level: Basic

Leader: Crystal Shin

Despite photography technology, scientific illustration still takes a very important role in the science world as an aid to convey scientific information. Whilst photos may provide many details, they can be visually confusing, and fail to guide understanding of the scientific information of the specimen.

Illustration can emphasize the parts that carry important scientific information of the specimen. It can also remove unnecessary information that is confusing to the actual specimen, such as cracks and discoloration. Well-rendered drawings can provide the viewer a clear and comprehensive understanding of the specimen. To create these drawings, illustrators often spend many hours under the microscope to complete the drawing, which leads to an extensive visual understanding of the specimen. Being able to draw the specimen will help your ability to see and perform your work in the field of paleontology better.

“I would rather teach drawing that my pupils may learn to love nature, than teach the looking at nature that they many learn to draw.”
– John Ruskin

Beginners to drawing are welcomed. In this workshop, you will learn how to render the fossil specimen in graphite pencils. This will include the materials and the basics of graphite drawing techniques, such as seeing values, how to shade, what to pay attention to when you look at the specimens, and how to translate information to your drawing. There will be instructions, demonstrations, and examples to draw. Participants will benefit from hands-on guidance and feedback on their drawing.

Workshop Type: Hands-on

Maximum number of participants per session: 12

Duration of session: 3 hours

Number of sessions: 1

Introduction to Microsorting

Level: Basic

Leaders: Patrick Wilson

Participants will learn the difference between tools and instruments used in microsorting and will evaluate their efficiency of microsorting via a hands-on exercise. This workshop will involve a brief lecture discussing how to wash and screen matrix prior to sorting, basic principles of microsorting, and health and safety considerations of using microscopes. Following the brief lecture, participants will be given a preset "fossil" medium that they will be able to sort under a microscope using tools such as tweezers and brushes. The participants can evaluate their efficiency of microsorting by analyzing the amount and type of material recovered from the "fossil" medium compared to the actual predetermined types and amounts.

Workshop type: Hands-on

Maximum number of participants per session: 10 

Duration of session: 3 hours

Number of sessions: 1

Polyethylene Glycol and Its Uses in Fossil Preparation and Conservation

Level: Basic

Leaders: JP Cavigelli, Kelsie Abrams

Polyethylene Glycol (PEG, also known by the trade name Carbowax) is a common substance used to consolidate and support fossils during preparation. It is safe to handle, easily accessible and affordable, reversible, and when used correctly allows for preparation of very fragile or small fossils. However, poorly thought through use of PEG can result in disastrous consequences for fossils. This workshop will cover where and how to purchase PEG, the grades of PEG available and their properties, various application methods and uses of PEG, and how to safely remove it from fossils.

Workshop type: Hands-on

Maximum number of participants per session: 20 

Duration of session: 1.5 hours

Number of sessions: 2

So...You've Been Invited to Dig Dinos in the Desert

Level: Basic

Leader: Hillary McLean

In this "back to basics" style workshop, participants will get the opportunity to learn various tips and tricks for roughing it long term during paleontology field work. In this career, one is usually expected to spend 2+ weeks out in backcountry areas like Montana or Utah where access to resources are severely limited. This lecture style workshop will have a presentation given by the workshop leader on recommended gear, how to deal with various weather conditions, heat and cold safety, some basic wilderness first aid, and a general discussion of various prospecting, quarrying, and jacketing techniques. The workshop leader will also provide examples of gear from their own personal items for participants to see. There will be roundtable discussions towards the end of the class for brainstorming and opportunities for participants to present their own experiences or suggestions.  This workshop is intended for beginners to field work only.

Workshop type: Demonstration, Roundtable

Maximum number of participants per session: 30

Duration of session: 1.5 hours

Number of sessions: 2

Intermediate Level Workshops

Beyond Airscribes

Level: Intermediate

Leader: Alan Zdinak  

Preparators tend to rely on airscribes as the primary tool of fossil preparation. But they are not the only class of tools useful for fossil prep, nor always the appropriate one.

This workshop will explore the use of rotary tools – Dremels, Foredoms and the like – as an essential component of any prep lab. A mainstay of jewelers and woodworkers, rotary tools offer a seemingly endless array of tips, bits, and burrs to accomplish a wide variety of tasks. They are an efficient method of sharpening pin vises and airscribes, of opening and trimming small jackets, and of grinding away matrix, plaster or resin. Rotary tools can often remove hard matrix from soft bone, or reduce gross matrix on particularly hard concretions bound for acid prep, better than airscribes. All without need of a compressor (though dust management is even more critical). Attendees will be introduced to a wide variety of applications, plus health and safety protocols.

Workshop Type: Hands-on

Maximum number of participants per session: 15

Duration of session: 1.5 hours

Number of sessions: 1

Developing and Adapting Workflows and Protocols

Level: Intermediate

Leader: Aly Baumgartner

In the simplest terms, a workflow is the sequence of processes that a project must go through to be completed. Underneath the umbrella of workflow, individual steps may have more specific instructions for completion called protocols. When properly implemented, workflows help streamline tasks, minimize errors, and increase overall efficiency. Workflows and protocols are also a good way to ensure that best practices are followed, and that institutional knowledge is preserved.

In this Roundtable, we will discuss developing and adapting workflows and protocols, including:

  • the importance of developing workflows/protocols before institutional knowledge is lost
  • common pitfalls when developing workflows and protocols
  • how to best test protocols
  • when workflows should be updated and adapted
Participants will share their experiences with workflow development and learn from the experiences of others. Every institution’s needs and situation are different, so by listening and learning from the experiences of others at a wide variety of institutions, participants can feel empowered to develop a system that works best for them.

Workshop type: Roundtable

Maximum number of participants per session: 15 

Duration of session: 1.5 hours

Number of sessions: 2

Paleontology Preparation Training Manual

Level: Intermediate

Leaders: Stephany Potze, Cornelia Clarke, Stevie Morley

Paleontology preparation laboratories are frequently faced with training interns, students, volunteers, etc. on fossil preparation techniques. This requires comprehension of the technical terminology, tools and their application, correct PPE use and, in some instances, understanding of preparation chemicals. A great deal of instruction needs to be relayed to people with varied experience in a short time, which can lead to a sense of information overload by the trainees.

The La Brea Tar Pits and Museum Fossil Lab supports a large volunteer cohort (57 as of February 2020; pre-COVID 19) and is regularly tasked with quick-turnaround training, which includes seasonal volunteers, field school students, collaborating researchers, cross-departmental staff, and technicians from other institutions. Provision of a hard-copy training manual written by lab staff covering workspace orientation, health and safety, manual preparation techniques, and microfossil sorting had a positive impact. It was observed that providing a consultable reference that accompanied the physical training yielded greater information retention and success by the trainee. There was notable improvement in assurance with the techniques and application of tool use through manual solvent preparation and an increased accuracy when identifying microfossil taxa.

Individuals being instructed in solvent and adhesive preparation were given the manual highlighting health and safety requirements, including appropriate SDS, followed by a discussion to ensure the information was understood and questions addressed. Over-preparation through the unnecessary removal of internal matrix was a concern but, upon introduction of the training document, this practice reduced appreciably. Trainees learning to repair and conserve fossils with adhesive demonstrated greater levels of confidence and success than those trained without the manual. Using this three-pronged approach to training - physical, visual, and text - the overall quality of solvent and adhesive preparation increased.

During microfossil sorting (material measuring 1cm - 1mm), newly-trained individuals who were provided the manual to consult showed increased accuracy of between 85-100% in general microfossil identification on their first attempt of sorting a scoop of fossiliferous matrix (~30 grams), compared to 40-60% prior to the manual. From the various biological materials sorted, the most significant improvement was noticed in seed identification (including seed fragments). Previously over 50% of seeds were overlooked in the sediment by volunteers. Following consultation of the manual, no seeds were left unsorted and most were classified correctly as "plant" or placed in the "unknown" pile. The overall distinction between bone and wood also improved. The dependency on staff assistance throughout the sorting process decreased, allowing more time to amplify the learning experience of trainees and focus on other lab tasks.

This workshop will introduce the contents that can be considered when drafting a preparation laboratory training manual, with the La Brea Tar Pits Fossil Lab Training Manual serving as an example. Throughout, discussion is encouraged for interactive dialogue that can continue to enhance and support paleontological preparators in training techniques. 

Workshop Type: Demonstration

Maximum number of participants per session: 30

Duration of session: 1.5 hours 

Number of sessions: 1

Perspectives on Consultation from the Burke Museum

Level: Intermediate

Leaders: Polly Olsen, Native American Advisory Board members

Session attendees will hear from the Burke’s Tribal Liaison (TL) and members of the Native American Advisory Board (NAAB), and will learn:

    • How community voices—primarily via the NAAB—led to the creation of the TL role and defined its place within our organizational structure;
    • What decolonization looks like at the Burke, and how it affects not only cultural practices but also scientific research; and
    • Attendees will leave this session with a better understanding of how consultation with community advisory boards is essential to decolonization. At the Burke, our TL and NAAB collaborate with staff members in the development, communications, exhibits and visitors experience departments, as well as with our fundraising board and volunteers. These wide-ranging interactions deepen cohesion and collegiality within and among museum departments and stakeholder groups.

Workshop type: Roundtable

Maximum number of participants per session: 30

Duration of session: 1.5 hours

Number of sessions: 2

Standardizing Fossil Preparation Lab Protocols

Level: Intermediate

Leader: Shyla Davison

The collection, archiving, and accessibility of data in fossil preparation labs is extremely important, and it allows preparators and collections managers to know the complete history of a fossil prior to long-term storage in collections or uses for research. Many institutions, regardless of size and resources, can improve fossil preparation data collection, transfer, and archiving protocols. By establishing a formal workflow and data collections protocols, institutions can ensure that the data collected in the preparation lab are archived properly to avoid confusion or data being lost.

In this workshop, we will focus on group discussions with the goal of constructing a protocol to standardize the process and ensure that data are collected, achieved, and made accessible to fossil collection managers, fossil prep lab managers, and researchers. This will be a collaboration between institutions to create a best practices protocol that can be implemented in fossil preparation labs and collections regardless of institution size and budget. The protocols developed during this workshop can be used to improve data management in institutions with fossil prep labs and provide suggestions for improving data transfer between labs and collections in, and between, other institutions.

Workshop Type: Working Group

Maximum number of participants per session: 15 

Duration of session: 1.5 hours

Number of sessions: 2

Advanced Level Workshops

Destructive Sampling Protocols

Level: Advanced

Leader: Marilyn Fox

Many museums receive requests for destructive sampling of their specimens. “Destructive sampling” includes any procedure that causes a permanent change to a specimen, such as sampling of subfossil tissues for molecular studies, sectioning of specimens for histology, or drilling of tooth enamel for isotopic studies. The knowledge thus gained may outweigh the cost in damage to the specimen.

However, to ensure that damage is not excessive and that the work is not done wastefully, a museum should develop guidelines that require researchers seeking permission to sample specimens to address the following:

    • Do they have the requisite skills to collect and analyze the sample while minimizing damage to the specimen?
    • What changes will occur to the specimen?
    • How will changes to the specimen be documented?
    • Can they get the desired results from the collected sample?
    • Will they publish the results in a timely manner?

This working group will compare guidelines from several museums (participants are encouraged to bring their own) with the end goal of developing a template that can be published, shared widely and adapted as needed. Having a well-known standard set of protocols would help museums minimize unnecessary damage to specimens and gather data. It would further help to educate researchers as to the need to document changes to specimens and encourage them to think of specimens as a non-renewable resource that should be maintained while still enabling research.

Workshop type: Working Group

Maximum number of participants per session: 20

Duration of session: 1.5 hours

Number of sessions: 1

Collection Tours

  • Paleontology Collections (including paleobotany, invertebrate, vertebrate, and geology)
  • Biology Collections (including herbarium, ichthyology, biology, and genetic resources)
  • Archeology Collections
  • Education Collections

2023 Host Committee

Kelsie Abrams, Chair                                   

Christian Sidor

Caroline Strömberg

Zoe Kulik

Eddy Armstrong

Ron Eng

Paige Wilson Deibel

Greg Mantilla Wilson

Katie Anderson


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