Research! VPosted on 03-03-2017 by Becky Desjardins
The building where the collection is housed is pretty busy. Students coming in and out, visiting researchers looking at material, lots of fossils in process in the prep lab. I thought this week I would share a few stories of some of the projects going on here.
Steve May is a research associate who is working on a few projects, one of which involves Miocene fossils collected from the Eastern part of Texas, not far from Corpus Christi. The story behind this collection is in itself pretty fascinating, because these specimens were collected by men in the WPA. I will skip a long US history lesson, but the WPA was a government organization created during the great depression (pre WWII) to give jobs to men who were out of work: mostly building roads and dams but also doing things like collecting fossils for the University of Texas. These fossils were collected in and around Beeville, Texas.
The material that was collected was recently determined to be middle Miocene (previously, it was thought to be pliocene). It is mostly mammals, from camels to mastodons, so far >50 taxa. Though many of these individual family groups have been published on, there has been no overview of the entire fauna and that is what Steve May is working on. Also, despite many of the publications, recent research indicates that some of these specimens were misidentified. Also, not all the matrix has been picked, so there may be even more species! Despite the fact it was collected almost 100 years ago, there is still a lot to learn about these specimens. Here is a link to Steve’s page http://srmay.com/current-research.html