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Paper No. 13
Presentation Time: 11:15 AM


AUBELE, J.C., GEGICK, P.J., LUCAS, S.G., MORGAN, G.S., RINEHART, L.F., SISNEROS, B., SPIELMANN, J.A. and WILLIAMSON, T.E., New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, 1801 Mountain Rd NW, Albuquerque, NM 87104,

Most museums have large numbers of volunteers. Many natural history and science museum volunteers self-select participation in scientific research, and work behind-the-scenes with curators in the science and collections departments. These volunteers come from a variety of backgrounds, education, and professions; they choose to work as avocational paleontologists, geologists, mineralogists, astronomers/planetary scientists or biologists. At the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science, citizen scientists work in: (1) field prospecting and collecting; (2) specimen preparation and processing; (3) collections identification, classification, and cataloging; and (4) research on new or previously collected specimens. Our citizen scientists range from those with no prior science training to young adults seeking experience to adults retired from careers as science teachers, engineers, or physicians. Some have worked at the museum for over two decades and devoted thousands of hours to specific projects. A percentage are trained, through a Museum class, to work in the fossil preparation labs, preparing specimens for research and exhibit. A club associated with the Museum, the NM Friends of Paleontology (NMFOP), provides social interaction, continuing education, and field excursions that broaden the experience for those who work with the paleontology curators. Volunteers with a specific interest in mollusks, butterflies, beetles, and plants have contributed extensively to the biological collections. Research by our museum citizen scientists includes the collection, recognition, naming, and reclassification of new fossil and rediscovered modern biological species. Museum citizen scientists provide essential work and additional personnel during a time of limited funding and reduction of staff positions. For them, it is a labor of love that is also fun. Ultimately their experience in “doing science” provides a way to include the public in a public institution, and a way to demonstrate to many non-scientists exactly what science is all about. In New Mexico, with a high percentage of the population underrepresented in science, working with the museum provides opportunities for Native American volunteers who are able to contribute firsthand knowledge of the geological resources on their own lands.
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