Museum gets new director
The College of Eastern Utah Prehistoric Museum has a new director.
Interim CEU President Mike King announced Tuesday that the search committee has chosen Ken Carpenter, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Dr. Carpenter also serves as chief preparator at the museum, and has worked as a consultant and adviser to various scientific publications and television productions.
He was one of three finalists who demonstrated their experience, research, and suggestions for the CEU museum in presentations to the search committee and the public earlier this month.
In his presentation, Dr. Carpenter declared his overall goals are to:
* Achieve international recognition for the facility and its scientific research;
* Increase attendance;
* Assure security of the collections; and
* Improve the quality and quantity of volunteer workers.
Turning to the specifics of attendance, he stressed that a bit more drama in displays could go a long way in sparking interest and visitor involvement. For example, he noted the that the first things visitors now see when the enter the museum are the information booth, brochure rack, and gift store. He suggested putting the Utahraptor mount in place of the booth to serve as an immediate attention grabber.
He also advised remounting the allosaurus in the sand pit because the current pose seems to portray the carnivore as a tail-dragger, which it was not.
Dr. Carpenter said has extensive experience studying the Cedar Mountain Formation, which is an important geologic and paleontological feature of this region. The strata range in age from about 100 to 140 million years ago, a period of geologic history called the Lower (meaning early) Cretaceous Period.
His PowerPoint presentation on research also demonstrated his skills as a communicator. One excavation, for instance, yielded a whole herd of gastonia - those calf-sized, armor-plated, spike-protected plant eaters on display at the museum now. His slide show demonstrated modern animal deaths as a way of eliminating probable causes of death of the herd.
It could not be predators, he explained, because predators kill and dismember one or two animals at a time. Disease, drought or starvation are also unlikely. Those animals die one at a time in different places. That leaves a probable cause of drowning, which could have happened as the dinosaurs were crossing a river or got caught in a flash flood. Geology of the site indicates some sort of flooding.
He also discussed how he conducted his own experiment to determine if bacteria play a part in fossilization. He got beef cubes from a butcher shop, then let them sit at room temperature over night to let the bacteria get going, then packed them in a tube of dry sand. Daily watering for nine months followed. Scanning electron microscope analysis at the end showed tiny deposits of calcium carbonate, the beginning of fossilization.
A control sample using sterilized sand, water and bone showed no evidence of fossilization.
The two other finalists for the position were Greg McDonald, Senior Curator of Natural History at the National Park Service, and John Foster, Curator of Paleontology at the Museum of Western Colorado in Grand Junction. All three candidate have Ph.D. degrees and years of experience in field work, research, and museum management.