Friday, November 25, 2011


DINOSAUR TRACK JUBILEE! The Early Jurassic rocks in and near St. George, Utah, have some of the world’s best-preserved dinosaur tracks. Once Paleontologist Barbie heard that the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (SVP) was sponsoring a field trip there, led by Andrew Milner, James Kirkland, and others, she knew this was the trip for her. “I love theropod tracks!” she said, while sitting in one. Her legs are on the digit III impression, and her arms are just above digits II and IV of this three-toed track, made by a large carnivorous dinosaur. (photo and caption by Anthony Martin)
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.

PALEONTOLOGIST BARBIE HAS AN EYE FOR DINO TRACKS. Sometimes dinosaur tracks are not preserved as depressions, like the one she just sat in, but instead are made as natural casts on the bottoms of sandstone beds. These are formed when sand fills in the depression, similar to how plaster casts are made. “There’s one!” Paleontologist Barbie exclaims, spotting a probable dinosaur track in the bottom of a sandstone bed. Not much gets past her, that’s for sure! (photo and caption by Anthony Martin)

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.

TIPS FROM PALEONTOLOGIST BARBIE FOR “SEEING” DINO TRACKS. Paleontologist Barbie is thrilled to visit a newly discovered dinosaur tracksite in the Navajo Formation in southern Utah with more footprints made by theropod dinosaurs. Here she demonstrates the best way to view the tracks: up close and with her head held at an angle to get maximum contrast. (photo and caption by Anthony Martin)

DETERMING THE SPEED OF A DINOSAUR—PALEO BARBIE KNOWS HOW! It worked! Using this method, she easily spots the next track in the distance. “Looks like we got ourselves a trackway. Let’s get out the measuring tape and figure out how fast it was going!” she says with her characteristic enthusiasm for quantitative methods. Using just a few measurements and some math (which she finds easy), you can figure out the approximate speed of the dinosaur trackmaker at this site(photo and caption by Anthony Martin) 

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 ( (photo and caption by Anthony Martin)

“TIME TO DO SOME MORE FIELD WORK!” Paleontologist Barbie loves going outside, and is very pleased to see some fantastic examples of physical sedimentary structures while out hiking along an outcrop of Jurassic sandstone. “Whoa – nice cross-bedding!”, she shouts gleefully. These angled layers of sandstone formed from either wind or water currents moving and depositing sand, either as ripples or dunes. (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!
PALEONTOLOGIST BARBIE DANCES WITH A DINOSAUR. After three days on the field trip Paleontologist Barbie finally meets one of the trackmakers, Dilophosaurus. “How cool – you’re one of my favorite dinosaurs! Would you like to dance?” she asks cordially. Of course, when Paleontologist Barbie dances, she always leads. And that’s because she’s a natural-born leader. (photo and caption by Anthony Martin)

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”!
ICHNO-FASHION AMONG WOMEN PALEONTOLOGIST. Paleontologist Annette Richter, visiting all of the way from Germany to see the dinosaur tracks of southern Utah and northern Arizona, shows off the latest in dinosaur-track inspired fashion, with her dualistic and monochromatic rendering of theropod-dinosaur tracks. Between their knowledge of dinosaur tracks and enthusiasm, Paleontologist Barbie was very excited to meet so many other women paleontologists who share her passion for fossils. (Photo scale in centimeters, and photo taken by Anthony Martin; owner of hand is unknown.)

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.
A NATURAL SPEAKER—PALEONTOLOGIST BARBIE. Once in the museum, though, Paleontologist Barbie cannot help but share her extensive knowledge about dinosaur tracks with some of the other field-trip participants by giving an impromptu PowerPoint presentation. “As you can clearly see from the divarication angle between digits II and IV, as well as the length:width ratio and qualitative traits, this is a theropod-dinosaur track,” she says confidently. (photo and caption by Anthony Martin)
EMPATHETIC WITH THE FOSSIL PAST. Following the lecture - which was very well received by her peers – Paleontologist Barbie decides to go for a swim, metaphorically speaking. The Jurassic rocks in St. George, Utah contain the greatest number of dinosaur swimming tracks in the world. These tracks, preserved as natural casts here, were made by theropod dinosaurs that touched their toes along the river or lake bottom while swimming with or against a current. “Wouldn’t it have been fun to swim with the dinosaurs?” she asks with genuine wonder. (photo and caption by Anthony Martin)
RELAXING WITH THE FOSSIL RECORD. Back in the museum and after a tough day in the field, Paleontologist Barbie gets in a little bit of relaxation in the museum. "There's something so comforting about large theropod-dinosaur tracks," she says while reclining fashionably next to a natural cast of one. (photo and caption by Anthony Martin)

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.
MUDCRACK MADNESS. Other sedimentary structures that catch her keen eye are mudcracks. These formed when a muddy area, such as on a lakeshore or next to a river, first became wet, then dried out. Many of the dinosaur tracks in this area also seem to have started the mudcracks when the dinosaur stepped into a drying mud. “Sedimentary structures rock!”, says Paleontologist Barbie. (photo and caption by Anthony Martin)

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!


  1. Paleontologist Barbie, you are such an inspiration. In fact, it was your hard work and dedication that inspired me to promote the tale of Volcanologist Barbie, after the call to arms by Evelyn of Geornys.

    You have seen it, I hope? - you should be very proud of your legacy. Rock on, Paleontologist Barbie.

  2. Dear Reynardo! Hallelujah for geologists--especially volcanologists! Volcanologist Barbie is just awesome! Thanks for alerting me to other female geologists who take their work seriously and can dress for it!

  3. OMG! Barbie, an ARCHAEOLOGIST! I never even knew she liked old people!