At the end of October 2011, when many young professional women were donning Halloween costumes for a night filled with revelry, Paleontologist Barbie was already on the second day of a Society of Vertebrate Paleontology fieldtrip in southern Utah and northern Arizona, deepening her understanding of dinosaur tracks. On her return to Atlanta, Georgia, with my Chiboogamoo, I urged her to talk to me about what she had learned on the 2011 SVP fieldtrip and about the virtues of professional development.
HALLELUJAH: First of all, can you explain what Society of Vertebrate Paleontology is and why you are a member.
PALELONTOLOGIST BARBIE: Sure. The Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, also known as SVP, is a great, fun organization filled with people who love fossils of animals that have backbones. I am a member because I enjoy being around a lot of other paleontologists and the SVP meetings, and it gives everyone the chance to be together and do nothing except talk about paleontology. It is a blast.
HALLELUJAH: It is well known that there is a group that gets together informally to celebrate you at the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology meetings. Why is that?
PALELONTOLOGIST BARBIE: I have heard about that group, too, and am very flattered by all of the attention. All I can think is that they really admire my enthusiasm for fossils and look up to me as a role model.
HALLELUJAH: Do you belong to any other professional organizations?
PALELONTOLOGIST BARBIE: Well, because I have to know a lot of geology too, I belong to the Geological Society of America or GSA. Then there is the Paleontological Society, which I also belong to. People in that society study all fossils, not just vertebrates. I really like that organization, too.
HALLELUJAH: As a passionate ichnologist, do you fit in better in one professional paleontological organization more than others?
PALELONTOLOGIST BARBIE: That’s what is great about ichnology is that it belongs to all of the sciences. I get to do geology, and all sorts of biology and paleontology when I study traces. Ichnology is really cool that way.
HALLELUJAH: Briefly summarize the 2011 Society of Vertebrate Paleontology fieldtrip you took.
PALELONTOLOGIST BARBIE: It is was one of the best fieldtrips I have taken in years! I loved it. We got to see Triassic and Jurassic rocks from about 200 to 180 million years ago in Southern Utah and Northern Arizona. These rocks have lots of fossils but especially dinosaur tracks. I have never seen so many dinosaur tracks in one place.
HALLELUJAH: What were the paleontological highlights for you?
PALELONTOLOGIST BARBIE: In St. George, Utah, they have a museum, the St. George Dinosaur Discovery Center, where they have preserved the rock layers that have dinosaur tracks. One of the rock layers has the trace of where a dinosaur sat down, then got up, and walked away. It is so exciting to see a trace where a dinosaur took a break from life, relaxed a little bit, and then decided to move on. I can identify with that.
ESTIMATING DINOSAUR SIZE FROM DINO TRACK—PALEO BARBIE LOVES MATH. “Wow, nice anatomical detail on this one!” she states with much admiration. Indeed, it is a beautifully preserved natural cast of a theropod-dinosaur track, showing its toe pads, claw marks and skin impressions. “I suspect this dinosaur had a hip height of about 1.6 meters, based on its 40-centimeter length multiplied by a factor of 4,” she says nonchalantly, not wanting to show off her penchant for numbers too much. This specimen is on display at the: St. George Dinosaur Discovery Site at Johnson Farm (http://www.dinosite.org/). (photo and caption by Anthony Martin)
HALLELUJAH: What was the most fun moment during your fieldtrip?
PALELONTOLOGIST BARBIE: When I was at the St. George Discovery Center, where we were having dinner, I ran into a reproduction of Dilophosaurus, a local dinosaur responsible for some of the tracks I had been examining. He was the perfect height for dancing, and let’s just say we made our own tracks together!
HALLELUJAH: What was your best find?
PALELONTOLOGIST BARBIE: Wow! That was really exciting! I was at a Jurassic outcrop with your husband Chiboogamoo. We were scanning the strata for any fossils that might there when we both spotted a huge dinosaur track. It turned out to be the oldest large dinosaur track (Eubrontes) found in that area.
PALEONTOLOGIST BARBIE MAKES A DISCOVERY! Back in the field again and at the last stop of the field trip, Paleontologist Barbie, along with her colleague CHIBOOGAMOO, discovers the oldest large theropod-dinosaur track (called Eubrontes) in this part of Utah. “Discoveries are the currency of science, and I’m cashing in!” she says. (photo and caption by Anthony Martin)
HALLELUJAH: At these meetings, who do you get starry-eyed over?
PALELONTOLOGIST BARBIE: I love seeing all the women paleontologists at the meetings! They are smart, confident, and are providing great role models for future scientists! Remember the saying on the box that I came in? “We girls can do anything”!
HALLELUJAH: I know that you love to speak about all things paleontological, did you present at this 2011 Society of Vertebrate Paleontology meeting?
PALELONTOLOGIST BARBIE: Not at this meeting, but I have some exciting things in the works.
HALLELUJAH: What tips can you give to deliver a top-notch paleontological presentation?
PALELONTOLOGIST BARBIE: First of all—enthusiasm with a capital “E!” You’d better show the audience you enjoy what you are doing. Number two—stage presence. That means connecting with the audience and doing everything you can to make your research interesting. And number three—good posture! Some times people say I'm a little too stiff, but when I'm presenting, I'm totally flexible.
HALLELUJAH: What will you be presenting in the future?
PALELONTOLOGIST BARBIE: I really want to finish my research on reptile burrows and present that at the 2012 SVP meeting.
HALLELUJAH: The 2011 Society of Vertebrate Paleontology meeting convened in Las Vegas. In 10 words or less express your feelings about this gambling center of the USA.
PALELONTOLOGIST BARBIE: Probability theory says, don’t go there. You’ll waste your money.
HALLELUJAH: Do you gamble?
PALELONTOLOGIST BARBIE: Only in that I take chances when I go into the field to look for fossils. But with money, no! I don’t need more money anyway, because I am not a material girl. I am a scientist, artist, and someone who loves the thrill of discovery!
HALLELUJAH: I know you are like me in that you can appreciate the beauty of any location that you find yourself in. Can you address the artistry of Las Vegas?
PALELONTOLOGIST BARBIE: It SOOO GARISH, truly awfully, and over the top. It is like a trilobite with too many frilly spines! Give me the rock formations in Zion National Park any day.
PALEONTOLOGIST VIEW OF LAS VEGAS. Paleontologist Barbie, upon arriving at the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas, is momentarily puzzled. "Oú est Le Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle?" she asked the doorman, who looked blankly at her and became even more confused than her. photo and caption by Anthony Martin)
PALEONTOLOGIST BARBIE DOES NOT APPROVE OF HO-MADE PIES. (One of the motels where the paleontologists stayed during the field trip (just outside of Zion National Park) had a restaurant with an odd way of advertising one of their desserts. But perhaps this restaurant can place its next ad in Nature. Photo and caption by Anthony Martin.)
HALLELUJAH: What is the next professional step for you?
PALELONTOLOGIST BARBIE: I just got back from a field trip on Sapelo Island on the Georgia coast, which is my third barrier island to conduct field work on. Next, I will go to Jekyll Island. I hope to go to all the Georgia Islands some day, because each one is unique. I like finding and experiencing the differences! And then at an international level, I’m really excited about Ichnia 2012, which is taking place in Newfoundland, Canada! There will be ichnologists from all around the world who will come together to chat about their latest discoveries!
HALLELUJAH: If you had dressed up for Halloween as did other Barbies in the geosciences, what would your costume have been?
PALELONTOLOGIST BARBIE: I probably would have gone as Mary Anning, one of the first great female paleontologists! Or, on a more abstract level, maybe I would have had fun designing a ghost shrimp burrow costume and going as a trace fossil. Now that's cool, because fossil ghost-shrimp burrows are used by geologists worldwide to show where an ancient shoreline was located.
|PALEONTOLOGIST BARBIE MAKES FOSSIL ART. Through the use of Photoshop™, Paleontologist Barbie took mudcracks radiating from a dinosaur track and fashioned it to look like paintings from one of her most favorite artists (after Hallelujah Truth, of course!) in the whole wide world, Cecelia Kane. See her blog, The Interwoven Heart. (original photo by Anthony Martin)|
|PALEONTOLOGIST DOCUMENTING PALEONTOLOGIST BARBIE. Chiboogamoo and Paleontologist Barbie work as a team. At the St. George Dinosaur Discovery Center, Chiboogamoo documents his colleague swimming with the dinosaur swim traces. Photo by an anonymous donor who was on the SVP field trip.|
Read previous Hallelujah Truth Interviews with Paleontologist Barbie:
Paleontologist Barbie's Passion for Modern and Ancient Traces
Paleontologist Barbie goes to St. Catherines Island to examine reptile burrows.
Paleontologist Barbie's Gleeful Discussion of Evolution, Darwin, and Science-Related Art
Paleontologist Barbie explains her understanding of evolution by looking at the "Selections" art exhibit at Fernbank Museum of Natural History in Atlanta, Georgia. Specifically, she provides her interpretation of the importance of art done by Chiboogamoo and Hallelujah Truth.
Paleontologist Barbie's Raison D'etre: Scientific Investigation and a Passion for Art!
This is the first interview with Paleontologist Barbie! It is a must read!