Paper No. 215-7
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:30 PM
ENGAGING UNDERGRADUATE STUDENTS IN COLLECTION-BASED RESEARCH AT THE UNIVERSITY OF IOWA PALEONTOLOGY REPOSITORY
The University of Iowa Paleontology Repository received a large collection of fossil plant material (ca. 20,000 specimens) from the UI Biology Department between 2003 and 2013. The collection is composed of cited research material including primary types, historical material, and new, undescribed material from the U.S. midwest. The collection was placed in emergency temporary storage until NSF funding was awarded in 2014 to rehouse and reinvigorate the collection. In February 2015, twenty-nine new cabinets were installed to house the collection in improved facilities. Nine undergraduate students were employed for the summer of 2015 through the NSF grant and an Iowa Center for Research for Undergraduates (ICRU) fellowship. Students were given team-based and individual projects, including preparing new storage, preparing the collection for moving, moving the collection, rehousing, numbering and inventory of the collection, collection research, photography, condition reporting and documentation. Training was provided by grant PIs (faculty and staff), but also by students so that as one student became proficient in a task, they were able to train others. Students selected discrete sub-collections to develop their own curation and research projects culminating in a collection report. This allowed preliminary research to be carried out on a hitherto unknown collection. Students gained experience in scientific and historical research. Reports included a collection description, review of scientific and historical significance, and an outline of the geological history represented by their collection. Students assessed the curatorial status of the collections at the beginning and end of their projects to determine, in quantitative terms, the real impact of their work. Students completed pre- and post-project surveys to assess their experiences working with collections and any skill-set or personal development they realized. The student survey is used to improve internship experiences.