Sunday, March 3, 2024

Visit to the future office: San Diego Natural History Museum

Two weeks ago Sarah and I visited San Diego to do some house hunting - we're planning on doing our coast-to-coast move in mid-May, and already have a talk scheduled at the Museum of Texas Tech University in Lubbock, which is conveniently our half-way point; we can take a breather, hang out with our friend Aaron Pan (the MTT director) and then finish our trip through the desert of the American southwest. 

Bottom line is, our house hunting was a success - and we made a couple pit stops at the San Diego Natural History Museum. I'll be starting as the second Colclough Postdoctoral Research Fellow on June 1 - my best friend Dr. Ash Poust was the inaugural research fellow. Here are some photos from the trip!

Sarah and I stopped to say hello to an old friend in the terminal at O'Hare.

 SDNHM Curator Dr. Tom Demere picked us up at the airport and then showed us around the museum. The last time I visited was in January 2012 - 12 years prior! We went around exhibits for a bit. Here he is talking to visitors in front of the gigantic, as-yet-undescribed skull of
Hydrodamalis cuestae, the largest sirenian ever (Pliocene San Diego Formation).

Sarah admiring the paratype skull of
Valenictus chulavistensis. From the Pliocene San Diego Formation.

A beautiful undescribed skull of the Pliocene double-tusked walrus Dusignathus seftoni, with Sarah and Tom talking about Valenictus in the background. From the Pliocene San Diego Formation.

 Tom showing us the new exhibit on the controversial Cerutti Mastodon Site - controversial owing to its apparent extreme age for a human site in North America (100,000+ years). Here he is pointing at what looks to be a percussion flake on a mastodon bone (tibia, if memory serves).

A molar of
Mammut pacificus from the Cerutti Mastodon Site, broken into three pieces, and found several meters apart.  

 A spectacular collection of San Diego ammonites! I'm normally allergic to Cretaceous fossils - at least, Cretaceous fossils from far-off places taking up precious space where local fossils belong on display. These not only get a free pass, but I'll elevate them - because they ARE local fossils! The SDNHM does a fantastic job showcasing the local paleontology of San Diego.

 More San Diego ammonites.

 A terrible photo of a cast of Dorudon atrox on display...

...and next to it, a very detailed 3d print of the "controversial" toothed mysticete
Aetiocetus weltoni, the specimen with evidence of teeth and baleen at the same time.

The palatal foramina in Aetiocetus weltoni suggest that baleen was present in addition to teeth. This proposal by Tom and others in 2008 has remained surprisingly controversial for over 15 years.

 Tom made sure to show us my future office! This used to be Ash Poust's view. There's no windows, unlike my old office, but the workplace is a helluva lot nicer - and this office is bigger, and not shared. I basically worked out of a cubicle for the past 8 years.

 Sarah admiring the "half skull" of
Valenictus chulavistensis - an unpublished large adult make skull, one side of which was taken off by a bulldozer. Pliocene San Diego Formation.

 The main hall at SDNHM.

Cretaceous carrier shells - Xenophora hermax! Before seeing these I had no idea this genus ranged into the Mesozoic - I had seen Oligocene examples at Otago during my Ph.D. This species only cements rounded pebbles to its shell. Modern species cement other shells, bits of limestone, and basalt, and chiefly inhabit the Indo-Pacific.

And back at home, with the kitties. Jonesy has never been in a car for very long and is going to have a very confusing week in a couple of months.

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