My name is Michelle Pinsdorf, and I am a paleontologist and preparator of fossil vertebrates in the Smithsonian National Natural History Museum’s Department of Paleobiology. Preparators’ work can cover a wide variety of duties, from fieldwork to discovering new fossil specimens, to freeing those specimens from their surrounding host rock in our laboratories, to safely housing specimens for research collections, and helping to build exhibits for specimens going out on display. We call it “grave to cradle” work.
Most of the time you’ll find a fossil preparator leaning over a lab bench with a fine tool in hand, peering through a microscope and exposing the details of a fossil that helps researchers identify and publish about it. But for the past five years, my lab colleagues and I have been working on the renovation of the Natural History Museum’s fossil exhibits. This has involved the dismantling of many previously exhibited fossil mounts to allow for the conservation of the fossils and remounting them in new poses and settings. With the significant scientific value of these fossils, a lot of research and planning happens before each individual specimen is worked on.