Wednesday, July 21, 2010

What We Did On Our Summer Vacation, Part entry

The American Museum of Natural History in New York City is the site of the movie "Night At The Museum" with Ben Stiller. So, most people were seeking the talking head from Easter Island (see first picture below). However, we were getting a behind-the-scene tour of the primate fossils from a wonderful intern named Michelle. She and Walt connected through an internet group (they are both "goons") and she generously gave us three hours of her time to see and touch the fossils that take up 10 floors of the museum. Much of what is on display for the public is reproduced...we were actually touching the real stuff. Walt was a bit speechless, which is shocking for those of you who know him well.

We had an amazing opportunity when we met Dr. Andres Giallombardo, who just completed his dissertation on the link between placental mammals and the earlier marsupial and monotremes from the Jurassic period. He had a one-of-a-kind skull of the tiniest mammal you've ever imagined, found in the Gobi Desert. The skull was over 100 million years old. He showed the mandible and surviving tooth and let us view it through the microscope. Amazing. We are so thankful to him and to Michelle for their time...we saw stuff that visitors don't see, and you know how interesting that was for us. Walt will have some interesting power point presentations for his middle school students. By the way, Michelle turns out to be from Moreno Valley, and got interested in science in middle school, so who knows where Walt's presentation will lead...he is teaching the future scientists.

Finally, you will notice shelves and boxes. There are fossils that were recovered over 100 years ago that haven't even been open because there just are not enough researchers to work on them. Can you imagine? One of the people who brought those fossils to the museum is Edward Cope, famed paleontologist. You will see Walt standing at his actual desk. And, you will see Walt reading 1st and 2nd editions of Cope's and Darwin's books from the stacks of the research library. Speaking of books, Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson who heads the Hayden Planetarium was unable to meet with us due to a teaching commitment, but sent his regrets in the form of a signed copy of his book The Pluto Files. Read it, when you get the chance. Dr. Tyson is the main reason Pluto is no longer considered a planet in our solar system, and his writings are an enjoyable reading experience.

This is the end of our photolog from the trip. We enjoyed putting our feet on foreign soil again as we toured two provinces of Eastern Canada. We enjoyed the daunting task of learning Manhattan - a place we cannot wait to return to. We enjoyed beautiful views of the Atlantic sea and the NYC skyline that will hopefully stay with us throughout the next school year when days are stressful, and we learned a lot about primate fossil research (did you know there was an animal that lived in North America that is really half cat and half dog with a long, prehensile tail that allowed it to swing between trees in the forests that used to cover our country?).

What a great getaway. Thanks for reading, looking, and sharing it with us.

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