0
WP_Error Object
(
    [errors] => Array
        (
            [invalid_taxonomy] => Array
                (
                    [0] => Invalid taxonomy.
                )

        )

    [error_data] => Array
        (
        )

    [additional_data:protected] => Array
        (
        )

)

We Have Guests

Michael (L) and Dave discussing specimen notes.

Michael Cuggy (L) and Dave Rudkin discussing specimen notes.

Those of you who are familiar only with the exhibits and the other “front end” parts of the Museum might be surprised at the constant changes that take place in the hidden parts of the institution. You might think that the dusty backrooms would remain the same from decade to decade, but really it is a whirl: exhibits are built in the workshop and moved out onto the floor, new plant and animal replicas and models are made by the artists, and specimens and artefacts are constantly cycled through the labs and storerooms of the Museum tower.

This state of change is true on the research side of things, too. The curators spend quite a bit of time studying our collections, but the collections are very large and many of the objects are far outside our own expertise. Since the Museum serves as a resource for researchers from outside, we often receive research visitors who wish to study particular parts of the collection. These visits are extremely beneficial to both parties: the researchers have an opportunity to study some of our remarkable material, and the Museum benefits from their expert identifications of our collections, and from the sharing of new knowledge with the scholarly community and the general public. Our collections and exhibits are improved by these studies!

Research visits tend to occur in cycles or waves; researchers from out of town, in particular, seem to plan extended study visits for the summer months. This may be partly because many of them work at universities and other teaching institutions, and the summer is the interval in which they get a break from day-to-day teaching responsibilities. In the case of The Manitoba Museum, it might also have something to do with the climate, as some people from outside the prairies have the (mistaken?) impression that Winnipeg’s weather is something less than tropical from November through April.

Michael Cuggy contemplates a eurypterid specimen.

Michael Cuggy contemplates a eurypterid specimen.

Right now we are into that summer stage, and this week I have the pleasure of receiving research visitors in the lab. My friends and colleagues Dave Rudkin (Royal Ontario Museum) and Michael Cuggy (University of Saskatchewan) are here to spend some serious time with the fossil eurypterids (“sea scorpions”) that we have collected from Ordovician age rocks in Manitoba over the past dozen years or more (these rocks are about 445 million years old).

One of the William Lake eurypterids in our collection

One of the eurypterids in our collection, from the William Lake site

In this particular case, Dave and Michael are collaborating with me on the project, which is particularly nice as I receive visitors and also get to contribute to the research myself. Eurypterids are a very tricky group to study, since they were arthropods (joint-legged animals) that had external skeletons made up of many different components. In the specimens we are considering, the components have come apart in different ways and/or been squashed at different angles as they were buried in mud and fossilized. As a result, the patterns they make are extremely complex and difficult to decipher. One specimen may look like a jumble of legs and segments, while another may have the body twisted so that, at first, it may be difficult to tell where the head is.

A specimen may, indeed, look like a jumble of legs!

A specimen may, indeed, look like a jumble of legs and segments!

We have many eurypterid specimens in our storage cabinets, so Dave and Michael are pulling out each one, examining it closely, consulting the notes that they made previously, and in many cases taking photographs to supplement the ones we already have on hand. Ed Dobrzanski and I are making sure that Dave and Michael have all the tools and space they need, and I periodically supply them with opinions, observations, data, and coffee and cookies.

It seems to be working well so far. Still miles to go before we see where we are with the project at the end of the day Friday, but I’m sure the research will be exciting and interesting, at the times when it isn’t exasperating and frustrating!

Dave Rudkin discussing some of the eurypterid photos, compiled on his computer.

Dave Rudkin discussing some of the eurypterid photos, compiled on his computer.

Share

Graham Young

Curator of Geology & Paleontology

See Full Biography

Graham Young grew up in Fredericton, New Brunswick. After doing a B.Sc. in biology at the University of New Brunswick, he switched to geology and did an M.Sc. in paleontology at the University of Toronto. After completing a Ph.D. at the University of New Brunswick in 1988, Graham spent two years in Newcastle, England, studying fossils from the Island of Gotland, Sweden. He moved to Winnipeg in 1990 to do research at the University of Manitoba, and has worked at the Manitoba Museum since 1993.

At the Museum, Graham’s curatorial work involves all aspects of geology and paleontology. He is responsible for building the collections, dealing with public inquiries, and preparing exhibits. Over the years, Graham’s research has become broader in scope, moving from specialist studies of fossil corals, towards research on ancient environments, ecosystems, and unusual fossils such as jellyfish and horseshoe crabs. Most of his current field research is on sites in the Grand Rapids Uplands and elsewhere in northern Manitoba.