Oklahoma's number one blog for natural and cultural history.

 

So, You Want to be a Paleontologist?

After reading stories like “Digging Deep for Leadership” and “Step Outside Ordinary,” we know that you’re itching to sink your hands into the red dirt for a fossil hunt of your own. We also know that you’ve secretly dreamed of being a paleontologist since seeing Jurassic Park in 1993. Well, we have good news for you, Mom and Dad: Fossil field trips aren’t just for kids.

 Now, it’s your turn.

 Join the Sam Noble Museum’s invertebrate paleontology curator, Steve Westrop, and museum staff on Friday, Sept. 20 and Saturday, Sept. 21 for an unforgettable journey into Oklahoma’s Paleozoic past. Explore life in Oklahoma’s ancient oceans through an informative talk on Friday evening and close-up look at some of the museum’s finest invertebrate specimens.

 Participants discover a Trilobite

 On Saturday morning, we will depart from the museum at 9 a.m. and travel in university vans to Whitemound, where you will find a variety of marine fossils that you can take home. That’s right, finder’s keepers. Don’t worry about the tools, because we’ve got you covered. Just bring a sack lunch, snacks, comfortable shoes and plenty of water.

 Participants gather at Whitemound

 Advanced registration is required, and the deadline to enroll is Friday, Sept. 13. The trip costs $60 for museum members and $70 for non-members, though ultimately the experience is priceless. Because, really, how many opportunities will you have in your lifetime to unearth a prehistoric fossil with your bare hands? 

Don’t wait. Enroll today.

Step Outside Ordinary

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The 2013 OSA campers

Summertime: lazy days by the pool, sleeping until noon and all the video games your controller can handle. It’s the overworked student’s paradise. In the summer of 2013, however, 14 Oklahoma middle school students left ordinary behind to take part in a most amazing adventure. The Oklahoma Science Adventure (OSA) camp, a weeklong educational endeavor operated by the Sam Noble Museum’s ExplorOlogy® program, allows students to discover alongside professional scientists, without paying a cent.

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Campers at the ropes course 

That’s right, without paying a cent. Thanks to partial funding by the Whitten-Newman Foundationthe program is free for participants. During OSA, students have the opportunity to conduct field research, conquer the University of Oklahoma’s ropes course, canoe down the Illinois River and sleep beneath the world’s largest Apatosaurus in the museum’s Hall of Ancient Life. What more could you ask for? 

Last summer, students also investigated a unique Oklahoma fossil site known as White Mound, an ancient shallow ocean where, more than 400 million years ago, an assortment of animals, including trilobites, crinoids, brachiopods and corals, lived. Nick Czaplewski, the staff curator of vertebrate paleontology, assisted students in collecting a variety of fossils. Based on their understanding of modern animals and fossil evidence, they constructed an example of what an ancient ecosystem might have looked like.

 

Fossils at White Mound

Although OSA promises new friends and fun-filled memories, it’s about much more than that. The program affords budding scientists a chance to gain hands-on experience, awarding them awareness and confidence in their own abilities. For many, this revelation generates the initial spark of a lifelong passion.

“It really surprised me how hands-on it was. It was a good surprise,” recalled Abby Holden, of Claremore, Okla. Holden explained that science used to be a sore subject for her in the classroom, but after OSA she feels enthusiastic and confident.

Holden conducts ecology research

 According to Holden and several other students, field experience ranks high above classroom learning when it comes to both education and enthusiasm. According to Clay Dominy of Shawnee, Okla., there is no comparison.

 “If you want to be in paleontology, learning in a classroom does not prepare you. They don’t teach you about geographical maps. Out in the field, though, you can see everything you need to know,” Dominy said.

 

Moxley gets up close and personal with nature

Another camper, Ella Moxley, a seventh-grader from Norman, Okla., said she never realized how hands-on science could be until spending a few days in the field, where she learned to overcome her squeamishness towards insects. Moxley learned first-hand that to be a scientists, you’ve got to be willing to get down in the trenches of nature.

“I would recommend OSA to any science enthusiasts who are definitely not afraid to get dirty,” Moxley said.

Of course, OSA isn’t all work. Moxley and Holden both described their canoe trip down the Illinois River as the pinnacle of their journey. According to Dominy, however, jumping into the ponds and scooping up tadpoles proved to be the most fun.

Dominy hunts for tadpoles

So whether you’re hoping to have the time of your life, explore an interest or escape the mundane routine of long summer days, OSA is for you. Don’t let this summer be just another series of wasted days by the television. Applications will be available in the winter of 2013, and we hope you’re ready to take the plunge. Join us, and step outside ordinary.