GSA Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, USA - 2019

Paper No. 146-7
Presentation Time: 3:25 PM


ESTES-SMARGIASSI, Kathryn1, WILEY, Alexis J.1, WRIGHT, Erin A.1, RODRIGUEZ MERGENTHAL, Marisol2 and SESSA, Jocelyn A.1, (1)Department of Invertebrate Paleontology, The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, 1900 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, PA 19103, (2)Enrollment Management & Student Success, Drexel University, 3210 Chestnut Street, Creese Student Center, Suite 050, Philadelphia, PA 19104

The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia of Drexel University (ANSP) is the oldest natural history museum in the Western Hemisphere, and its Invertebrate Paleontology (IP) collection dates to the museum’s founding in 1812. The collection is dominated by mollusks, primarily from the US Atlantic and Gulf Coastal Plains and the U.K., while also reflecting a 19th century museum perspective of having representation of all invertebrate phyla. Unfortunately, the collection has operated without dedicated staff for the last two decades. No data from this collection of ~1 million fossils, including 5000 type specimens, are available online, and no data are shared with data aggregators (e.g., iDigBio, GBIF). The merger with Drexel has revitalized this world-class collection, with the hiring of a curator, a position that has gone unfilled for 40 years, and the first full time collection manager in 20 years. A partnership has also been established between the IP department and Drexel’s Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LS-AMP) program, an NSF funded initiative that provides various modes of support for historically underrepresented minority undergraduate students in STEM-disciplines to increase funding for these students. With funding from LS-AMP and Sessa’s start-up, IP hired two undergraduate collections assistants in 2019.

The students work 32 hours per week for six months and are currently inventorying the entire collection and its library. This drawer-level inventory is an essential first step in transitioning to modern collection standards. In Fall 2019, the ANSP IP team will join the Eastern Pacific Invertebrate Communities of the Cenozoic (EPICC) Thematic Collections Network. Following inventory completion, students will catalogue and digitize EPICC-relevant specimens. Beyond collection management skill-building, the IP department focuses on providing strong mentorship. Students are recruited in part for their interest in biodiversity and museums, and staff work diligently to provide experiences beyond the collection space (e.g., field work, donation retrieval), and to share their professional experiences. LS-AMP has allowed ANSP IP to recruit talented students who may not have interviewed within a museum otherwise, and to revitalize the collection by building a strong team.