I am the new 2015-2016 PCP-PIRE field intern! A little about me: My name is Dipa Desai, and I came to join the PCP-PIRE project through my interest in paleoclimate science. I arrived in Gainesville last week, and have since been training with the paleobotany, invertebrate paleontology, and vertebrate paleontology departments here at UF.
The technique I’ve been learning are ways to prepare the fossils for research. In the paleobotany lab, I helped Nathan, the resident paleobotany expert and post-doc, to create acetate peels of the cross-sections of calcitic mudstone chock full of fossilized plant material. As you can see, the peel below shows a cross-section of a Parinari fruit pit, similar to a peach pit, as well as several other sections of fossilized wood and seeds.
In the vertebrate paleontology lab, I learned how to prep the fossils as they come back from the field. Similar to a puzzle, I glued broken bone fragments back into complete specimens using B-72, a mild adhesive that is reversible with acetone. I also worked on removing larger bones from the plaster jackets that paleontologists use to protect the fossil en route to the lab. I used acetone to wet the matrix surrounding the bone, and gingerly brushed it off to slowly uncover more of the fossil. This particular fossil is from Thomas Farm locality in Florida, but it still gave me a good sense of how to prepare some the vertebrates I will be excavating out of Panama! In invertebrate paleontology, I created silicone molds of fossils that were preserved as internal casts. Aly and I created clay dams around the targeted cast, and poured silicone into it and let it set. The following day, we peeled the silicone molds off to reveal a 3D cast of the fossil! Here is an example of one Aly did today:I definitely learned a lot these past two weeks, and I’m excited to take these skills to the field!