We answer a lot of questions at FossiLab. Here are some of the most common ones:
|How do you know how old the fossils are?|
Scientists can learn the age of rocks using an accurate and reliable method called radiometric dating, which compares the observed abundance of naturally-occurring isotopes and their decay products. Used in tandem with traditional geologic principles, such as the principle of superposition, the numerical age of virtually any rock formation, and by extension, any included fossils, can be determined. Visitors to FossiLab will find more information about dating methods at the base of the Tower of Time near the entrance to the Dinosaur Hall. Online resources are available on the Department of Paleobiology website. Follow this link and click the yellow "Dating Methods" tab at the bottom of the web page.
|How long does it take to remove the rock covering the fossils?|
The amount of time it takes to prepare a fossil varies depending on the size and complexity of the specimen as well as the nature of the rock matrix that encases it. A small specimen such as a leaf might be uncovered in only an hour or two, but a large, complicated skeleton encased in very hard stone might require a few years of painstaking work. All of the work in FossiLab is done by volunteers who have received special training and work in the lab part time.
|How can I become a paleontologist?|
If you are in high school or younger, take lots of science and math in school and work hard to get good grades. Work on your reading and writing skills so that later on you will be able to communicate your ideas and research discoveries clearly to others. Start to learn about fossils and how to find and identify them by joining a local fossil or geology club and going on collecting trips. Consider becoming a junior member of professional organizations such as the Society for Vertebrate Paleontology. In college, study as much biology and geology as you can. Gain more experience (and perspective on paleontology careers) by volunteering to assist researchers in their labs or in the field. It is likely that you will need to earn a Masters or PhD degree in geology or paleontology if you want to pursue paleontology professionally, but if that is not a possibility you still can contribute to the field. Self-educated amateur paleontologists have made many important discoveries and collaborated with university and museum scientists to write papers and publish in scientific journals.
|What is the dinosaur on the FossiLab logo?|
It is a baby Compsognathus, a small carnivorous theropod that lived during the Late Jurassic.
This fanciful image drawn by paleoartist Mary Parrish shows a preparator using a pin vise and carbide needle to remove rock matrix covering the bones of the animal's right leg and tail. The middle section of the dinosaur is show partially "reconstructed" with a life-like arrangement of muscles covering the bones. At the front end, the reconstruction has been completed by the addition of skin and very fine, hair-like feathers. You can learn more about creating life-like images of dinosaurs by visiting the Reconstructing Extinct Animals page of the Smithsonian's Dinosaurs in Our Backyard website.
[ TOP ]