During excavations, paleontologists place fragile fossils inside plaster jackets to protect them for transport to the lab. Once there, they carefully remove the dirt and rock surrounding the bones, and may leave the fossil in its jacket for safe storage.
When we’re out at a fossil site and we find a fragile or rare fossil we want to make a plaster jacket around the fossil to bring it back to the Museum where we can prep it in a slow and methodical way, instead of out in the field where it would be exposed to the elements and potentially fall apart.
So what we do is we dig a trench around the specimen when we find it and we try to figure out exactly what the limits of that specimen are. And then once we’ve dug the trench around the specimen we take plaster bandages and wrap the whole pedestaled specimen that’s still in the dirt underneath and then we undercut the specimen, flip it over and bring it back to the Museum.
Once it’s at the Museum we can then methodically and slowly, under microscopes and with dental picks and brushes, prep the specimen and glue it so that it can stay intact and doesn’t fall apart. If we were to try to lift it out of the ground when we first find it, it would just explode into a million pieces so we want to do it the most careful way we can.
Fossil Preparator, Vertebrate Paleontology
Florida Museum of Natural History
White’s Bear-Dog Skull (Amphicyon longiramus)
From Gilchrist Co., Florida
Lived ~20–16 million years ago
Preservation and Preparation