Annual Meeting, Lincoln, Nebraska

April 24-28, 2018

workshops | symposia | fieldtrips

platform and poster presentations


Registration for pre-meeting workshops involves the payment of a separate fee to cover cost of materials.  Workshops, mini-courses and demonstrations offered on April 26th during the meeting are free with general registration.  Spaces are limited.  Register early to assure you get your preferred workshops!

Pre-Meeting Workshops are open to meeting registrants as well as non-registrants, but priority placement will be given to meeting registrants. If you have questions about the registration process or are having difficulty, please contact Gregory Brown at for assistance.

Pre-Meeting Workshops (Tuesday, 24 April 2018)

Jacketing and Cradles $30 USD


Full-day session. Storage jackets are a great way to preserve specimens too large to fit in drawer-scale housings. The solution for fossils bound for cabinets, open shelves or even floors, these jackets are designed so that fragile specimens need never be without support during storage, study or even CT scanning. Made from archival grade materials they ensure maximum support over the long haul.

In this workshop we’ll focus on Smithsonian style “clamshell” jackets made of plaster, fiberglass and polyethylene foam. Participants will learn:

  • how to set-up the specimen and workspace for jacketing
  • how to analyze the specimen to optimize jacket design
  • adding temporary fills to create voids and avoid undercuts
  • tailoring the liner
  • proper mixing and handling of FGR 95 plaster
  • buildup of plaster and fiberglass layers
  • creating support structures in the jacket using polyethylene foam
  • trimming, finishing, sealing and labeling the jacket

We’ll also touch on alternative techniques and materials, such as liners made from polyester felt.

Participants will get hands-on experience helping to make a jacket. This will involve long periods standing, potentially getting plaster on clothing, handling (with gloves!) coarse fiberglass mat. You are welcome to bring your own particulate filter respirators and aprons, but appropriate PPE will be provided.

Leader: Alan Zdinak, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

Teaching the Observational and Tactile Skills Required For Fossil Preparation $20 USD

Half-day session offered once in the morning and once in the afternoon. (Sign up for one session only!)

One of the biggest challenges all fossil preparation labs face is finding a repeatable formula for introducing and then developing the mental and tactile skills needed for proper modern fossil preparation techniques.  Modern paleontology requires fossil preparation to first recognize, and then with appropriate tactile approach, expose and preserve as much associated information as possible in specimens being prepared, stabilized or repaired.  All these skills need to be taught on a recurring basis as new students, volunteers or seasoned academics with little hands-on experience pass through the laboratory. 

The single easiest way to teach the observational and tactile skills required for appropriate fossil preparation is, when possible, through the use of a teaching or discussion microscope.  With this tool, the experienced preparator can perform tasks while describing the reasoning and thought process as the ‘rookie’ is observing with full three-dimensional vision.  Then, places can be reversed and the rookie can work with direct feedback from the experienced ‘teacher’.  Appropriate tool choice, evaluation of specimen matrix properties, angle of attack, amount of pressure applied, size of matrix nibble to be removed are a few of the challenging ideas needing teaching to new people in the lab.  Delivery of appropriate quantity and type of adhesives or consolidants is another critical concept required for students to get off on the right foot.   This workshop is also designed to help reinforce a teaching method for introducing microscopy skills required in modern fossil preparation.  

This workshop is meant as a starting point for people in a position of training or oversight in a preparation setting and is not intended as a how-to-prepare-fossils experience.  All skills discussed in the workshop, observational or mechanical, apply universally to fossil preparation whether working on gigantic sauropods or micro specimens.  Every participant will have their own specimen to keep as record of concepts taught.  Participants will be led through a series of skills, observational as well as tactile, that can be easily reapplied at their home institutions in a teaching context.  Mechanical matrix removal via airscribe and pin vice/needle as well as introductory adhesive delivery techniques with tools like micro-oilers and tweezers will be the focus of the tactile skills examples.  The importance, relevance and ease of documentation during the preparation process will also be addressed.

Class size is limited to 12 participants per session.

Leader: Mike Eklund and Greg Brown.

Specify Collections Database Training $20 USD

The Specify biological collections management system supports all of the core data entry, edit, and report functions expected of a modern, research database platform. In addition it tracks museum curatorial transactions, links images and documents to specimen records, has a public web portal, and publishes data to internet aggregators in the Darwin Core standard. The development of Specify began 30 years ago as an NSF-funded program with the goal of creating an accessible standard system of database management for biological (and by extension, paleontological) collections.

This workshop will cover four general topics, two in the morning session and two in the afternoon.


  1. Specify Capabilities Overview. 
  2. Specify Workflows for Paleontology Collections.


  1. Customizing Specify Preparation and Conservation Modules.
  2. Applications for Specify data.

With input from the paleontological collections-care community, we hope to help create a module that fulfills our need to fully document preparation and conservation treatments specific to the field of paleontology.

You may sign-up for either or both of the sessions, depending upon your interests.

Host Committee

Gregory Brown, Co-Chair
Shane Tucker, Co-Chair

George Corner
Carrie Herbel
Rob Skolnick
Jeremy McMullin
University of Nebraska State Museum

Conni O'Connor
Annual Meeting
Committee Chair
Florissant Fossil Beds National

Website Development

Lisa Herzog
NC Museum of Natural Sciences

Deb Wagner
University of Texas at Austin

Aaron Giterman
NC Museum of Natural Sciences

Workshops, Mini-Courses and Demonstrations (Thursday, 26 April 2018)

(Attendance at these workshops and events is free with your registration for the Annual Meeting.)

Imaging Techniques for Specimen Documentation and Investigation


Innovative imaging and lighting allow us to see and capture specimen information not otherwise discernible. This presentation will introduce some simple documentation and investigation strategies and techniques that are useful before, during, and after the preparation or conservation of paleontological specimens.  First, we will explore visible lighting techniques that will aid in providing a better representation of structures that are critical to recognize, preserve and document.  Next, the usefulness of fluorescing techniques will be demonstrated as an investigation and documentation tool for all specimens, whether looking for evidence of prior specimen treatments or trying to identify the presence of new specimen data such as soft-tissue. These techniques are so simple they can be easily incorporated into any institution’s laboratory.  Finally, we will examine some working solutions incorporating newer imaging options which help provide continuity in specimen documentation during the preparation process, enabling more valuable records for future use.

Leader: Mike Eklund and Conni O'Connor

Basic Molding and Casting


Half-day workshop offered in the morning.

This workshop will combine hands-on exercises and demonstrations to provide the attendees with a basic understanding of molding and casting techniques and materials.  Presenters Carrie Herbel and Greg Brown have a combined 64 years of experience in replicating everything from dinosaur skulls to shrew teeth and gorilla faces to forensic evidence.  A sound understanding of the basics will allow you to skip many of the "teaching-moments" (mistakes) we had along the way! 

Leaders: Carrie Herbel, University of Nebraska State Museum, and Greg Brown (retired)

Advanced Topics in Molding, Casting and Nature Faking


Half-day workshop offered in the afternoon. 

Advanced Topics in Molding and Casting will focus on "tricks of the trade".  While some projects will require nothing more than basic techniques, the vast majority will require far more.  Specimen size, morphological complexity, fragility, chemical composition and other factors will combine to make each project an exercise in creative thinking based upon a thorough knowledge of an arsenal of materials and methods.  These skills and knowledge can certainly not be taught in a half-day workshop, but we hope to introduce you to the process of designing a project that will minimize risk of damage to specimens while producing an accurate replica for research or display. You may sign up for both the morning session (Basic Molding and Casting) and the afternoon Advanced Topics session, or you may sign up for just one or the other alone, depending upon your personal needs.

"Nature-Faking" is the art of duplicating the complex multi-layered coloration of fossils.  While research-quality casts are best produced in a neutral-color high-resolution medium such as epoxy (to enhance visibility of minute detail) and left unpainted, casts for display or donor appreciation are often painted to resemble the original specimen.  Achieving an accurate representation of the original is often a challenging task and requires a battery of techniques (including washes, dry-brushing and highlighting) and a unique way of "seeing" a specimen.  In addition to demonstrating our favorite techniques, we encourage attendees to share their own.  Casts will be provided for practice during the workshop.  Other methods such as in-mold painting and inclusion-casting will also be demonstrated.

Leaders: Carrie Herbel, University of Nebraska State Museum, and Greg Brown (retired)

Historic Adhesives and Consolidants and the Agents of Deterioration


Historic collections are not just a repository for specimens, but a library of past techniques and materials used in the preparation and conservation of fossils. This survey of the UNSM collections will focus on recognizing some of these materials and noting their long-term efficacy and archival qualities (or lack thereof!).  In addition, we will discuss the Agents of Deterioration and how they are (or are not!) addressed in collection storage systems.  This workshop is an exercise in seeing collections with a critical perspective to help you assess your own collections and recognize how specimens may still be at risk. Attendees are encouraged to discuss the application of remedial and preventive conservation principles and the best ways to avoid, block or minimize the Agents of Deterioration.

Extension Science: Virtual Field Trips

School groups from across the state have traditionally visited the University of Nebraska State Museum for field trips and programs from the Museum's Education department staff.  Recently, the Museum has adopted state-of-the-art technology to extend the reach of its programs by bringing live interactive video and audio into classrooms far beyond the state's borders. This technology allows children and adults to enjoy experiences once unavailable to them: Sharing the thrill of discovery in a remote laboratory or field site and talking with scientists as they ply their trade. Learn how it is done, and what possibilities the technology may hold for your museum.

Leader: Kathleen French, University of Nebraska State Museum

Organizing a Volunteer Program

Persons who freely offer their time, talent, and skills to prepare and/or conserve fossil specimens and their associated data make incredible contributions to the field of paleontology. While enlisting a volunteer task force is a familiar concept to many of us, organizing an effective volunteer program can be a daunting task. This workshop is aimed at equipping volunteer managers with best practices for creating, managing, and developing a refreshed volunteer program at their home institution. A case study from the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County will be presented to open discussion about volunteer recruitment, selection, training, evaluation, appreciation, and feedback. Special attention will be given to identifying suitable volunteer projects and structuring team workflows. Participants will learn about best practices from other institutions, receive handouts, and create a personalized template for implementing a new or improved program at their home institution.

Leader: Vanessa Rhue, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

Records Conservation


To a paleontologist, fossils are the primary data upon which the science depends. It is our responsibility to reveal the data trapped in the matrix and to assure that the data (the fossil) survives preparation, study, handling, long-term storage and the ever-present agents of deterioration that are always trying to destroy the data.  But our responsibility goes beyond the fossils themselves to include the preservation of all the field notes, specimen labels, curatorial notes, contextual information, photographs, conservation records and similar information associated with every specimen.  These records may be paper, film, photographs, digital devices and other media far more ephemeral that the fossils themselves.  University of Nebraska archivists and others will describe their strategies for these types of records.

Leaders:  Peterson Brink, Traci Robison, and Blake Graham, University of Nebraska Libraries

Photo Stacking: Auto-montage Microphotography Demonstration


Micro- and Macro-photography suffer from a single serious flaw: shallow depth of field.  For small objects, the depth of usable focus may be less than one millimeter.  If important morphological features are outside of this range, they will be blurry in the resulting image.  However, if multiple images are taken, each from a different focus distance, and the resulting images combined using photo-stacking software, the resulting image will exhibit sharp focus throughout the desired range of depth.  At the high end of available systems is Syncroscopy's Auto-Montage, but, thanks to modern software development, similar capabilities are now available at affordable prices (e.g. Helicon Focus) or free (e.g. CombineZP).  A demonstration of UNSM's Auto-Montage system will be followed by an introductory hands-on opportunity with these affordable photo-stacking options.

The Lindoe Technique


First described by Clive Coy and Allan Lindoe, the "Lindoe Technique" is a method of creating hyper-realistic replicas of very low-relief or no-relief specimens.  A slightly modified technique was used to create strikingly accurate replicas of plant and insect fossils from the Florissant Fossil Beds in Colorado and described in a poster by Conni O'Connor, Kelly Hattori and Mariah Slovacek.  Don't just read the poster, come get your hands dirty and take home your own Florissant "fossil".  Ideal for display, teaching, and hands-on activities without risking original, fragile, paper shale specimens.

Leader: Conni O'Connor, Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument

Pyrite Deterioration: Myths and Methods Review


Pyrite decay, also known as pyrite disease, is a serious problem for fossil and mineral specimens that contain unstable forms of Pyrite and Marcasite. Historic literature on the causes and recommended treatments to arrest the chemical process is useful, but can also be inaccurate.  This workshop will provide an in-depth look at the properties of Pyrite, Marcasite, diagenesis, and treatment options for specimen conservation. Samples of decaying and stable specimens will be on hand, as well as recommended materials for conservation practices. Participants will go home with a guide to Pyrite decay mitigation practices.

Leader: Lisa Herzog, North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences

Annual Meeting Host Committee

Greg Brown ( Tucker (,

Carrie Herbel ( | University of Nebraska State Museum

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