My First Week as an Intern at Fossil Butte National Monument

First off, I have to apologize for my infrequent posting on my site but I wanted to let you all know that I have completed my first week as an intern at Fossil Butte National Monument! Long story short, it was amazing and I’m so far having a great time at FOBU. Already, I’m doing many of the things that I always wanted to do as a park ranger (although to be clear I’m not officially one yet). Tours, fossil preparation, hiking, greeting visitors, and finding fossils neatly summarize my first week at FOBU. Now, to be honest, the experience is not all flowers and sage bushes, sometimes, it can get a little slow in the visitor center or at the Research Quarry but that’s not really surprising given FOBU’s status as a lesser known National Monument. In fact, I have already talked to several visitors who only know of the Monument because they were in the area and they wanted to check it out.

Now, what makes FOBU so special is its status as a Fossil Lagerstätte. A Lagerstätte is a fossil quarry that has either an exceedingly high amount of preserved fossils (like Dinosaur National Monument or La Brea Tar Pits) or fossils that are preserved in exceptional quality (think Burgess Shale). FOBU satisfies both of these categories by having an exceptionally high and diverse amount of fossils (ranging from fish to bats) that are preserved in excellent quality (skin impressions, flowers, feathers, coprolites and even cartilaginous bone). As such, FOBU paints a picture of a world quite different from its modern, semi-arid desert climate. A lake stretched across Wyoming, Idaho, and Utah, known as Fossil Lake, deposited the vast array of fossils. This lake was a semi-tropical paradise and was the home for stingrays, crocodilians, large soft-shelled turtles, early horses, palm trees, ferns, and much more. This diversity helped established FOBU as a national monument and is the reason why I’m here today and writing to you this article. I applied for an internship at a national monument via the GeoCorps program and FOBU was one of the monuments I had chosen. I had actually visited FOBU years ago and became reacquainted with it when I took a Fossil Ecosystems course last year and learned about its vast diversity. Needless to say, I was pretty stoked when I got offered the position. SO Here’s a list of the things that I have done and noticed in no particular order

-I started working on a fish at the fossil preparation lab. The setup is arranged so that visitors can see your work on a tv screen and personally ask you questions about what you’re doing. I’ve never worked on fish before so it was a bit awkward at first but now I’m getting the hang of it. It will be awhile before I get actually good at it though.

-I sworn in my first Junior Ranger! Her name was Sarah and I believe she was six.

-Most common question at the visitor center is “Where’s the bathroom” haha

-I never used a cash register before so that is surprisingly one of the more stressful things to learn although I’m somewhat used to it now.

Mioplosus Fossil

-Got to give some mini tours at the Historic Quarry and show some excited visitors some freshly excavated fossil fish. That was awesome. I even got a photo holding up one of the fish with some children. I even found a fish eating another fish! That was rad (although I didn’t notice that at first due to the fossil’s state).

Research Qua

-On Fridays and Saturdays, I work with another colleague at the Research Quarry although we only work when there are guests present. We have to protect and preserve the monument but at the same time we have to interpret and demonstrate paleontology so it becomes a bit of a paradox. When guests aren’t at the Research Quarry, we have to sit and wait for them to come up before we can continue.

-Saturday morning I gave my first two tours to a rock group from Logan, Wyoming. I eagerly volunteered for the tour and gave my whole schpeal to them. I got a round of applause from them at the end that, whether done sympathetically or not, was nonetheless appreciated! Some of the visitors told me that I did a good job afterwards. I still have things to improve on (I kind of faltered at the bird and plant fossils) but I thought I did a pretty good job overall. It was fuuuuun.

-It’s been surprisingly cool and rainy here. I have to sometime wear jackets in the middle of the day and it can get to the low fifties at night. I was told it was quite hot before I arrived.

-I’ve been cramming as much knowledge as I can about this place. Geologic history, park history, species’ names, or where to eat in Kemmerer, it’s kind of intense but at the same time, it’s easy to do considering I’m constantly exposed to the information. This video succinctly summarizes my view of the whole thing. Fossil Butte View -We can hike off trail so I’ve been doing that more and more. I’m not exaggerating too much when I say that no matter where you hike in FOBU, you’re going to get a good view.

-Kemmerer, the nearby small town, has expensive grocery food but the liquor is at a reasonable price, take that for what you will.

-I live in fear of running over the cute, fat prairie dogs. They stand by the side of the road, on the verge or running across the street despite the approaching vehicles.

-Internet is very scattered out here but I can get wireless access at the local public library and, of all places, a Mexican restaurant called Taco Time. God bless you Taco Time and your so-so burritos. That’s all for now! I’ll write updates every now about my experiences here and I will try my best to continue on my usual articles. Until next time!

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