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Rocking the Research!

09/11/2015 Josh Bonde Pd.D.
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Rocking the Research

How many of you knew the Museum had a research component? Well we do! In my position on the Board of Directors I am in charge of the Conservation and Research portion of what the museum does. So I am going to use this blog to introduce the hard working staff and volunteers who make research possible.

First is Curator Kate Yoshida. Kate did her PhD at Michigan State, and she is an expert on spotted hyenas. If you ever want to know random facts about hyenas be sure you track Kate down the next time you are at the museum.

With research come collections. Taking care of those collections requires a dedicated Collections Manager. We are very fortunate to have Melanie Coffee on board to fill this roll. Melanie studied Museum Studies at the University of Leicester. In addition to her museum work, she is also adjunct faculty in art at College of Southern Nevada and plays in a band.

In addition to our staff, we have established a Research Associate program. Research Associates are researchers who volunteer their time and expertise to be affiliated with the museum. We are very grateful for their time and efforts because without them we would not be able to do what we do. The research associates are listed in more detail on the website.

The first research associate is Frankie Jackson PhD. Frankie is a humble person and would never say this but I am going to: she is the world expert on dinosaur eggs and dinosaur reproductive biology. Frankie has travelled across Europe, China, Patagonia, and western North America studying dinosaurs. She has even braved the swamps of the Gulf Coast to study modern bird and crocodilian nests. To add to the list of her accomplishments, she is also the person responsible for identifying all of the dinosaur egg shell that has been discovered in Nevada.

Then there is my wife, Aubrey Bonde PhD. Aubrey’s research focus is on the ecology of ice age animals. She has sampled the teeth of animals from caves and deposits across the western United State to compare the different assemblages in different environments. In addition to her current focus on the ice age, she has studied 150 million year old crustaceans in Eastern Europe.

Jim Schmitt PhD. is another one of our humble research associates, but I would say he is probably one of the sharpest geologists I have ever met. He knows the rocks of about every single mountain range in this state. He has even served as an adjunct curator of geology at the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Montana. Jim’s research is focused on how sediment makes its way from mountains to the sea.

Next is Steve Rowland PhD., a long standing member of the Museum’s science advisory board. Steve is a paleontologist who has studied a wide range of organisms, from 600 million year old critters to ice age giant ground sloths. Steve is an expert on the history of life in Nevada and is very active in scientific outreach to the community. Steve even served as my doctoral advisor when I was a student at UNLV.

Brett Riddle PhD. is a professor in the School of Life Sciences at UNLV who literally wrote the book on Biogeography (don’t believe me?). As much as I love digging up dinosaurs, mammoths, and cool big animals it was a life changing event professionally to learn that they rarely tell you the most interesting things about their environments. It’s the little guys (and gals) who are more responsive to environmental differences. So as a paleontologist or biologist it’s often the little critters who really tell you the story of what’s going on.

Last, but not least, is Ewan Wolff (PhD, DVM) who in addition to being a veterinarian is an expert in how dinosaurs got sick. He studies a type of paleontology called paleopathology, the study of ancient disease. His studies have made their way into popular literature in talking about these round holes that were found on tyrannosaur jaws. For a time researchers thought they might be natural or maybe holes from being bit by other tyrannosaurs. Ewan studied the mouth diseases of birds and crocodiles and was able to show that these tyrannosaurs were suffering from oral diseases, which modern birds and crocs are subject to (http://news.wisc.edu/17148).

Well this is our research cast of characters, all experts at what they do! As the museum matures and need arises we will undoubtedly grow this list and it will be my pleasure to introduce those folks as they sign up for the journey. Also be sure the next time you are at the museum to check out the projects in my paleontology lab and be sure to ask the student volunteers lots of hard questions for me!