Posts Tagged ‘Scott Williams’

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There are lots of people and things that can affect your life but very few will ever change is. The Paleontology Program at the Burpee Museum of Natural History has changed my life, in the most amazing ways possible.

 

I remember being thirteen in 2005 and being so excited to visit the museum to see Jane, their juvenile Tyrannosaurus rex. I’ve been a dinosaur/paleo enthusiast since I was two years old and was really amped to see this important specimen. When we walked up to the main desk I saw a brochure for volunteering on summer expedition with the Burpee to the Hell Creek. I snatched one up, and knew right then that I had to go on this dig.

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Myself (in the orange) on my first dig in 2007

The next two summers I saved up money from various jobs and in 2007 at fifteen years old I went on my first dig with the Burpee, and it was the best choice I ever made. I was so excited when I reached Camp Needmore, ready to tackle the coming week and looking forward to this new experience. After years of reading books and watching documentaries I’d finally be in the action.

 

It is now nine years later, and I have just returned from Utah where I was on my sixth expedition with the Burpee. Over the years I have worked my way up from volunteer, to intern, and now these past four weeks I was actually an officially employed field assistant. I remember during my first few digs how I’d watch Scott Williams, Josh Matthews, Katie Tremaine, and the other leaders teaching the volunteers, telling personal stories, and generally being a unit. I am now a part of that unit. I’m helping with the teaching and prep during the digs. Their stories are now my stories. I am a part of their family.

 

Beyond my growth within the Burpee itself, without the Paleo Program I would not be where I am today. It’s because of the Burpee that I ended up going to Augustana College (IL)- where I met many of my closest friends, and had other important life experiences. It’s because of the program and people involved that I’ve had the jobs I’ve had, and my life is on its current trajectory. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for people like Scott, Katie, and Josh.

Also, because of the Burpee Paleo Program and related events (like PaleoFest) that I’ve made incredible connections. I’ve met and talked with some of the top scientists like Jack Horner, John Foster, Phil Currie, Kristina Curry Rogers, and many more; I’ve had dinner, joked, and shared drinks with Mark Goodwin, Brian Switek, Eugenia Gold, and Mike D’Emic; I’ve sat and dug literally next to Jim Kirkland, and Thomas Holtz! Many of these people are paleo giants that I idolized growing up. I never thought I’d ever meet them let alone dig alongside them.  Yet here I am, doing exactly that all because of Burpee’s Paleo

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Thomas Holtz at the Burpee Ninja Turtle site in Montana. I’m behind the camera, trying not to scream.

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I have learned so much about the science, personal work ethic, and (as corny as it sounds) myself because of this program. It has been invaluable to me as an individual.

It’s incredible to see how the Burpee has helped advance the science. Some of the most important papers and research in the last decade have ties to Burpee either by using their specimens, presenting it at PaleoFest, or from help/collaboration with the staff.

Since my first time going to the Burpee in 2005 I have been able to see the museum grow into a completely different entity mainly because of the Paleo Program. I’ve seen great new additions, including Homer’s Odyssey and many great traveling exhibits like African Giants, Megalodon, and Savage Ancient Seas. I’ve witnessed some of the best paleo symposiums ever including this past year’s Women in Paleontology PaleoFest. I’ve seen the Paleo Program strive to have new forms of outreach and education like attending Comic Cons, giving guided tours at dig sites, and hosting different family oriented events.  I’ve been able to see new people grace the museum’s halls and I’ve seen kids come back each year to events or digs and grow as individuals, exactly like me.

 

My life has forever been changed and I can’t imagine it without the Paleo Program or the individuals involved like Scott, Katie, and Josh. I owe a lot to them, their hard work, and their dedication. They are great mentors, scientists, and friends.

 

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From right to left: Scott Williams, Steven Landi, Josh Mathews, Eugenia Gold, Katie Tremaine, and myself.

 

 

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Anybody who knows me knows that I have a great love for the Burpee Museum of Natural History in Rockford, IL. The small museum is a great place to learn about natural history as well as present day wildlife, and so much more. It has exhibits that display a wealth of information, and really relays it all to the public in a very down to earth and enjoyable way. They also have a great paleo program, and offer volunteer opportunities to their digs in both Montana and Utah over the summer. I’ve gone on several digs with the Burpee, and over the years have built a really strong relationship with the wonderful team at the museum.

But above all, the number one event that has allowed me to build such a strong and lasting relationship with not only this museum, but other paleontologists around the world, is PaleoFest. For the past seventeen years, the Burpee has been home to an annual conference where some of the leading names in paleontology gather to present on their latest research. It’s a more informal, intimate version of SVP. This year’s PaleoFest is bound to be one of the biggest ones yet rivaling their 2013 Late Cretaceous Symposium. 2015’s PaleoFest is themed “The Beginning of Dinosaurs and the Origin of the Modern World,” and will focus on the Triassic and Jurassic periods of the Mesozoic. Tickets for this event went on sale today so I thought that I should spread the word! Without further adieu, here are my top five reasons why you NEED to attend this years PaleoFest

1.) The Lectures

There are going to be some outstanding lectures this year by some of the leading names in paleontology, including Dr. Mark Goodwin, Dr. Stephen Brusatte, Dr. Hans-Dieter Sues, Dr. Paul Sereno, Dr. Susan Evans, Dr. Matt Bonnan and many many more. Talks will be focused on life in the Triassic and Jurassic periods and the evolution of our earth. The talks given at PaleoFests aren’t just factual, but fun! The key note presentations are also always enjoyable. Accompanied with a delicious dinner that takes place after night one of PaleoFest, guests enjoy the key note lecture. At the end of the event you’ll be up to date on current theories and possibly even potential future research these scientists will be doing. The presenters know how to give a great presentation without it ever being too heavy handed, or dull. You’ll get the facts you want, and have a great time doing it. Learning can be fun!

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2.) The Atmosphere 

The museum is going to be packed, and busy–but you’re going to love it. It’s going to be full of people who love the world of paleontology and natural history just as much as you do! Nobody is out of place here during the two day event. Everyone comes together for a common purpose–to learn from the best! There are going to be plenty of opportunities to talk and discuss ideas and theories with complete strangers who will be just as excited as you are about the topics being presented on. You’ll make new friends which leads me to my 3rd point…

3.) Making Connections

To me, this is the BEST thing about PaleoFest. Unlike SVP, the Burpee offers a more laid back and intimate setting to host its conference. This factor affords you the opportunity to get one on one time with the scientists attending the event. Over the years I have met with and interviewed many scientists at PaleoFest and have kept in contact with a good majority of them! While it may seem intimidating to walk up to top paleontologist, just keep this in mind- they are JUST AS EXCITED about the science as you are! They are ready, willing, and able to answer any questions you have. This opportunity to meet with leading scientists is also a HUGE chance for college students/soon to be college students to meet with these scientists and make connections for possible future college opportunities. When you’re at PaleoFest, don’t just sit on your duff! Go and interact with other visitors as well as the presenters. It will make your experience ten times better than it already was.

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4.) The Exhibits AND Burpee Staff

While PaleoFest is going on the museum is still in full operation, which means between the talks or during breaks you have the chance to roam around and take in some of the Burpee’s amazing exhibits. Along the way, the Burpee team has also placed some interactive stations throughout the museum, where you can have a chance to learn more about the world of paleontology, or current theories on how scientists believe prehistoric creatures lived. There are also small break out sessions for the younger paleo-lovers, where they can learn about the world of the dinosaurs and also have a hand in making different crafts. The Burpee staff are truly a great bunch of people who are passionate about what the they do. The manpower and time put in to events like PaleoFest are testament to that enough! During PaleoFest you’ll often see Burpee team members running around working hard, or giving guided tours throughout the museum.

5.) The Auctions

Last but not least! The auctions that happen at PaleoFest always offer a great opportunity to a.) nab some REALLY cool gear/items b.) have a good laugh. The Burpee’s PaleoFest team, led by Scott Williams, knows how to put on a show and work the crowd. The items up for sale range from high quality paleo-art, to signed books, and even casts of fossils made by the Burpee staff! Ibf bidding wars aren’t “your thing” to join in on, watching the auctions alone is fun in and of itself. Some people really get passionate about wanting those casts and those Estwing rock hammers!

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If you are interested in natural history or paleontology, or even if you are just curious about any of it- PaleoFest is for you!  The even brings in tons of every day people just wanting to know more about the science of paleontology, as well as die hard enthusiasts. The presenters make it all easy to follow and understand, without skimping on any of the material. PaleoFest is an amazing two day event, unlike any other, that will entertain as much as it will inform you about the fascinating would of paleontology.

PaleoFest is March 14th and 15th, 2015

Passes:
One day Pass
Memers: $45
NonMombers: $55
Student (with ID): $45
Two day Pass
Members: $65
NonMembers: $75
Student (with ID): $65

Key Note Dinner and Lecture: 

Burpee Members: $55
General Public: $65

Tickets are available online as well as by calling 815-965-3433

* Find out more about PaleoFest events, and talks as well as the different kids activities by visiting www.burpee.org