Tumbler Ridge’s Palaeontology Research Centre

Denise McWhirter has been one of the Tumbler Ridge Museum Foundation?s JCP (Job Creation Program) workers this year. Her position is ?Archive Assistant?, in which she learns new skills under the supervision of palaeontologists Rich McCrea and Lisa Buckley at the Peace Region Palaeontology Research Centre (P.R.P.R.C.).

As the Archive Assistant Denise works with the records of the P.R.P.R.C.?s dinosaur collections, an important position that comes with a great deal of responsibility. Each fossil specimen is assigned a unique specimen number which is linked to a paper record containing information about the fossil.

This includes the precise location on where the fossil was collected, what geological formation the fossil was discovered in, the date of discovery and collection, the identification of the specimen, and a variety of notes and even maps to round out the information on the particulars of the fossil.

Once all of this data has been recorded in a paper file and a computerized collections records program it will be very easy to retrieve information on any specimen or group of specimens as well as display the specimen?s exact location in the collections area, down to which drawer in the specimen cabinet in which it resides.

While most of her work involves writing up specimen data sheets and marking fossils with specimen numbers, she has also needed to learn a lot about palaeontology and palaeontologists. Her archiving skills are improved by a thorough understanding of the fossil material and the sites it comes from, so she has learned preparation work, casting, fieldwork and prospecting.

On one memorable day she actually discovered her first dinosaur bone, and saw it go through the entire process from discovery to storage in the P.R.P.R.C.?s collections area. She assigned it the necessary accession number and wrote up the specimen data sheet including all pertinent locality and recovery information, and finally laid the specimen safely to rest in a drawer of a specimen cabinet.

Although the aim of the Job Creation Program is to give people new skills and enable them to find new employment, Denise?s contribution to the T.R.M.F. has been immense through her assistance and development of the fossil specimen data base.

Denise summarises: ?To be given this opportunity to take on a challenge that I would otherwise never have had the chance to do has been extremely rewarding. This has been the training of a lifetime!