I wasn’t sure what to expect when I signed up to work with the Devonian portion of the project as my first exposure to the BETA experience, but I was not surprised to find out that my job included working with rocks. I’ve always been somewhat of an outdoorsy person, and I’ve never been afraid to get my hands dirty, which was lucky for me because Jose and I’s first job was to clean all of the fossils the group collected during our Rockford trip.
Now, I’m not sure what you picture when you hear ‘fossil cleaning,’ but let me tell you that if you think it sounds boring, then you’re probably not doing it right. The first step in cleaning fossils is to fill a bucket with hot water. The second step is to carefully select a fossil from the clay-coated plastic bags. The third step is to lovingly choose a toothbrush and gently scrub the fossil until it looks much cleaner than it was 20 seconds previously. That’s if you’re me, anyway. I quickly learned from Jose that if I wanted to clean all the fossils like that, you’d probably still find me in the rock lab over Christmas break. We perfected a swishing method that involved taking a handful of fossils and swirling them around in the water, then quickly brushing off the worst of the clay before delegating them to the sonicator stack. You never realize how much dirt you missed until you have the change the sonicator water a bunch of times because it’s so cloudy. (Fun fact, the sound waves make the water feel really cool against your fingers!)
The clean result
Of course, the fun doesn’t stop when the toothbrushes do! We also used the rock saw on some of the rocks we collected from the BMC quarry.
Jose using the rock saw
A pause in cutting
I’ve really enjoyed getting some insight into what geologists do with some of their time, and having a chance to work with fossils that are millions of years old, but are still recognizable as the creatures they used to be! Plus, I’ve added some cool items to my rock collection.
On this page we'll post updates of the BETA Project's progress- stay tuned!