The Geology Museum's Annual Report
|Fossil Vertebraes||Teacher Training|
In 1999, the Museum proved, once again, a popular destination for school groups and the general public. Tour coordinator Haddie Heitkamp kept busy matching tour requests with the schedules of our guides. In addition, the Museum is becoming increasingly recognized as a valuable resource for university courses in the geological and biological sciences. We hosted about 16,000 visitors last year.
|Christopher Ott and the flying Pteranodon.|
Graduate student Christopher Ott has been put in charge of the Fossil Preparation Lab. In April, Chris unveiled his expertly-crafted balsa wood model of the flying reptile, Pteranodon. The reconstruction was based on material that was collected in recent years from the Cretaceous-age Niobrara Chalk deposits of northwest Kansas. The Pteranodon, its wings spreading over 20 feet, now soars above the Mastodon and the Edmontosaurus dinosaur in the Museums vertebrate hall.
Chris Ott and student aide Lisa Buckley led a two-week expedition exploring the badlands of eastern Montana for bones to supplement our Triceratops reconstruction project. The 5-foot-long skull is scheduled to be on exhibit by the end of the year 2000. A $3,000 grant from the Universitys Natural History Museums Council provided funds for the preparation, identification and cataloging of a significant part of our collection of fossil vertebrates. In the process, we identified the partial skull of a Leptoceratops dinosaur from the Cretaceous Hell Creek Formation of Montana, a genus that has never before been found in these deposits.
Lisa Buckley has been busy identifying the Museums collection of theropod (meat eating) dinosaur teeth, ranging from those of gracile raptors to massive ones of Tyrannosaurus rex. Once the rock matrix had been removed from some of the poorly-preserved bones labelled Tyrannosaurus, it was discovered that they were actually the bones of a Triceratops. At this point, we are not sure as to the identity of the "Tyrannosaurus" bones that are still encased in plaster jackets awaiting cleaning and preparation.
The Paleontology Field Experience and Curriculum Development program, funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the University of Wisconsin-Madisons Graduate Division, and the Department of Geology and Geophysics has successfully completed its second year. The program is overseen by Joe Skulan assisted by high school teachers, Marilyn Hanson and Steve Bower. Its centerpiece is a three-week intensive training program in June. The six teachers worked part of the time at the Museum and in various labs on campus, and went on a one-week expedition to Kansas and Wyoming recovering mosasaur bones and mapping dinosaur tracks. The results of the "Paleontological Experiences" have been presented at several national science teachers conventions. View the project websiste at http://www.geology.wisc.edu/~museum/hughes/.
The Museum and the Web
Meanwhile, the Museums project assistant Matt Kuchta catalogued some of the museums collections and entered the data into our computer. Matt is also in the process of updating the Museums web page with an improved text and many new pictures. The virtual Museum can be visited at www.geology.wisc.edu/~museum.
Lectures, Public Programs
As part of the Universitys On the Road program, Museum Director Klaus Westphal gave several slide presentations on the Museums dinosaur expeditions and displays. He also took part in the Universitys Sesquicentennial celebration with a dinosaur program at the Elvehjem Museum of Art. Other outreach included participation in a "Quarry Day", a day-long public event at Madisons Yahara Quarry, with an exhibit of fossils that can be found in Wisconsin. This year again, the Museum was one of the destinations for children enrolled in the Nature Passport Program. The free passports are a way to motivate younger children to explore educational nature programs and facilities in the area. During that time, enjoyed responding to the many questions raised by the inquisitive youngsters.
The Museums Annual Open House featured the unveiling of the flying reptile Pteranodon, slide programs on Planet Mars, and the ever-popular Rock Pile for Kids. Many of the specimens for the Rock Pile were generously supplied by Burnies Rock Shop, Madison. Plan B Design Studio of Hazel Green, once again made dinosaur face masks with our youngest visitors.
This years Special October Exhibit, "Colorado Classics", featured a collection of colorful minerals from some of that states famous historic mines. The collection, on loan from the Denver Museum of Natural History, was brought to us by UW-Madison alumnus James Hurlbut.
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|Fossils from the Cambrian-age Burgess Shale of British Columbia, Canada, famous for unusual preservation of trilobites and soft-bodied organisms, are featured in a new exhibit. The exhibit was designed by Jonathan Hendricks and Matt Kuchta. The small educational display was first taken to Tucson to represent the University of Wisconsin at the International Gem and Mineral Show.|
|The Burgess Shale Exhibit with Haddie Heitkamp and Matt Kuchta|
While some major financial contributions (Dr. and Mrs. Kenneth W. Ciriacks, Santa Fe, New Mexico; David Jones, Worthington, Minnesota; Ellis Taff, Madison; the Amoco Foundation, and many others) were used to support the dinosaur program and educational outreach. Other funds were dedicated for the purchase of specimens for our exhibits. A major contribution from Laura Linden, Madison, allowed for the acquisition of several specimens, including two gold samples, and green fluorite crystals from China. The Friends of the Geology Museum contributed a large Brazilian quartzite slab covered with the moss-like filigree of black dendrite minerals. James R. and Helen B. Ruchti, Edgerton, presented the Museum with a large ammonite from the Jurassic-age black shales of Germany. Three large rock specimens from the South Dakota Black Hills, including a rough sample of rose quartz, were donated by Henry and Elizabeth Pringle, Madison. University student Matt Kures donated a cephalopod fossil that he had collected on a recent geology fieldtrip.
|Klaus Westphal with a Brazilian quartzite slab.|
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An external review of the Department of Geology and Geophysics was highly complimentary of the Museum but deplored the low funding level. The Board strongly recommended the establishment of an endowment for the Museum. The most pressing need is that of a permanent assistant. Other needs include the long-overdue replacement of the display case lights, and funding for a secure cabinet to exhibit our extensive gemstone collection. We will try, with the help of the Department, to address these needs in the year 2000.
Prospects for a Museum Expansion
The Department of Geology and Geophysics is actively pursuing plans for a building expansion of Weeks Hall. The envisioned addition would increase the Museums exhibit space and also provide for two additional offices and for specimen storage.
The Museum owes much of its success to the Friends of the Geology Museum, Inc., a group of individuals that are enthusiastic about minerals, rocks, fossils, and the earth sciences in general. The non-profit organization supports the Museums expeditions, the restoration of dinosaur bones and other fossils, the occasional acquisition of specimens for display, and the Museums educational outreach programs. The Friends owes special thanks to Suby van Haden, Certified Public Accountants, for donating their time to produce a financial statement that will be helpful for the Friends planned fund-raising efforts.
And the Museum would like to thank its staff members and many dedicated volunteers who act as instructors, tour guides, fossil preparators, and expedition members.