Paper No. 342-15
Presentation Time: 4:30 PM
TRANSFORMING BEGINNERS INTO EXPERTS: STUDENT-DRIVEN DIGITIZATION EFFORTS AT THE MUSEUM OF GEOLOGY, SOUTH DAKOTA SCHOOL OF MINES AND TECHNOLOGY
Integrating student training in museum studies with large scale research projects produces independent skilled experts and results in rapid curation of collections. Recent digitation projects at SDSM&T capitalize on undergraduate and graduate student interests in paleontology to improve accessibility of the Cretaceous Western Interior Seaway (WIS) collections as well as Miocene to Recent marine invertebrate and microfossil collections. Essential to the success of these projects are enthusiastic students. Student participation is not limited to data-entry, and through active participation in the entire process, from cataloging to identification to photography, students simultaneously learn morphology and taxonomy of multiple groups, and receive career-readying experience through supervised curation, organization, and digitization. In addition, weekly meetings provide an opportunity for students to directly impact the course of project completion. Faculty members also train graduate students as project mentors enhancing their leadership skills. Students also help drive the development of online and outreach content, such as a weekly web log detailing the experience of working on large-scale curation projects, and development of outreach programs implemented through student organizations. Student participants are aiding in the development of virtual field trips and other online content, and public museum displays showcasing digitized collection material are being developed by students in an exhibit design course. The process culminates in undergraduate and graduate student research projects, including investigations of the taphonomic and biogeographic trends within the WIS, taxonomic diversity of late Cretaceous sharks, conservation paleobiology projects focusing on coupled Neogene paleoceanographic and paleoclimatic trends in the Pacific Northwest, and Neogene changes in tropical coastal biomes.