FOSSIL Speaker Series: Dr. Sandra Carlson Visits Friends of the University of Michigan Museum of Paleontology

by Michael Lask, President, Friends of the University of Michigan Museum of Paleontology

Sandra Carlson and Daniel Fisher
Sandra Carlson and Daniel Fisher

The Friends of the University of Michigan Museum of Paleontology (FUMMP), more commonly known as “The Friends” are a group united by their love of fossils. Founded in 1971, the Friends support the activities, research and study of fossils at the University of Michigan Museum of Paleontology. At one of our meetings early in 2015 we discussed the FOSSIL speaker program which was initiated to provide financial support to bring professional paleontologists to speak at fossil groups across the country. We were very interested and so advised FOSSIL.

FOSSIL suggested that Dr. Sandy Carlson, of UC-Davis might be interested in speaking to FUMMP. Dr. Carlson, Professor and Director of the CalTeach/Mathematics and Science Teaching Programs at UC Davis, received her PhD from the University of Michigan. Her particular area of expertise is Brachiopods. When asked about coming to Ann Arbor, she responded that she would be delighted. FOSSIL proposed that if they paid for her flight, perhaps the Friends could cover her lodging while she was here. This was certainly a generous proposal and was discussed in detail at our June meeting. At that time, in a nice bit of synchronicity, Dr. Daniel Fisher, Curator and Directory of the University of Michigan, Museum of Paleontology, and one of our great advisors, informed us that in fact Dr. Carlson was his first doctoral student at the University of Michigan, and he would be happy to have her stay at his home. His offer was gratefully accepted by the group, and with that FOSSIL, FUMMP, Dr. Carlson and Dr. Fisher (pictured to the right) all worked together to make it happen.

And so Dr. Carlson presented: “In the loop: Evolutionary Innovations in the Brachiopod Lophophore and its Mineralized Supports” at our meeting on November 6, 2015. The event was a tremendous success. Not only did Dr. Carlson get to visit with old friends and interact with the University Paleontology department throughout her visit, but her presentation headlined our meeting, attended by 36 members and guests. Her presentation highlighted the concept of evolutionary innovations generally thru the specific examples of brachiopod development. This was augmented by her own detailed power point presentation as well as the many brachiopod specimens brought in by the members. Her engaging and entertaining presentation was followed by a lively question and answer period. Also discussed was her work with the Paleontology Society to actively engage and recruit the involvement of “amateur” paleontologists as members and to program for their interests.

Longtime member Darlene McDonald commented that: “It was a fun and informative presentation from our guest speaker, Dr. Carlson.  Although I’m not technically savvy on all she said, I did glean the gist of it and felt it was a good presentation.  To have someone of her caliber come to our group was really great.”

Founding member and Strimple Awardee, Mike Topor, commented that:  “Knowing the purpose of this lecture, [the] initial stages to bring an understanding between amateurs and professionals; the result was [a] success! Dr. Carlson’s lecture was informative and her love for her research showed. We have that same passion for our fossil collecting. Maybe if we knew more [of] what researchers need, we could return the favor and collect with that in mind.”   Mike was being modest as of course he and his brother have been collecting in coordination with professionals for years but his point is still valid and Dr. Carlson specifically addressed the need for cooperation between amateurs and professionals, a topic near and dear to us all.

Dr. Carlson in action
Dr. Carlson in action

The FOSSIL speaker program is not only a great idea but already a great success. We certainly hope to take advantage of any future opportunities. The more interaction between amateurs and professionals the more we break down the artificial barriers that are of no benefit to anyone, and advance Paleontology for all.

On behalf of the Friends, many thanks FOSSIL!

To learn more:

The Friends of the University of Michigan Museum of Paleontology website

Follow “The Friends” on Facebook