Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Dinosaur Joe and the Raymond Alf Museum

What a cool way to kick off my week of paleo-nerdery!

I was lucky enough to be invited to the Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology by my friend (and curator of the museum), Dr. Andy Farke. Located in Claremont, California, it is just a quick train ride away from the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology meetings happening this week in Los Angeles.

Dinosaur Joe
Lately, this museum has been in the news big time (including the New York Times yesterday), because of their newest fossil display: Dinosaur Joe.

Dinosaur Joe, if you haven't heard, is a baby Parasaurolophus--a type of duck-billed dinosaur with a tube-like crest on its head. It's ultra cool for several reasons:

1. It is a pretty complete specimen.

2. It's young, so it teaches us how the species matured (the baby dino has the beginnings of a crest on its head!).

3. It was passed over by seasoned paleontologists as a non-important bit of bone. It was a high school student that drew their attention to it so that the discovery could actually be made.

And that's what's really sets the Alf Museum apart from anyone else: their work with high schoolers. They are located on the campus of the Webb Schools--an international boarding school for grades 9-12--and often take in students to assist in the lab, in research, and out on digs. It's a great opportunity for students, and obviously a great opportunity for the museum! Without these students, Dinosaur Joe may have never been found.

The museum itself is really well put together. It's small, but it's filled to the brim with beautiful exhibits, fantastic educational experiences, and gorgeous fossils every where you turn. Designed as a loop to take you through time, it ranks among the best layouts I've ever seen for a museum of its size.

There are fossils of all sizes, all equally impressive, and one of the biggest collection of tracks and footprints I've ever seen. Not to mention beautiful (and sometimes fairly epic) art!

If you ever get a chance to swing by the area, make sure to stop in. You won't be let down (unlike the poor T. rex below).

Mammals' gotta eat, right?

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