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Dinosaur Dreams and Anthropology Wishes

By John F. Rhoades and Christopher J. Stuckey

Photo of Chris Stuckey Chris Stuckey scanning E&R Reports, Fossil Collection, Core Research Center, Denver.
Photo Credit: Josh Hicks, Core Research Center

Since early childhood, Chris Stuckey has had an interest not only in paleontology, but also in Government service at the Department of the Interior (DOI). Both his parents spent lengthy careers in DOI, with his father beginning as a geologist for the Bureau of Land Management and his mother as a mapmaker for the USGS.

Chris's interest in paleontology began with family trips to the Hall of Dinosaurs at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and continued when the family moved to Oklahoma. In Oklahoma, Chris and his father would take weekend excursions to collect fossils along a highway that cut through a hill that had once been an ancient sea bed. There, they collected numerous fossils of prehistoric sea animals, which included crinoid stems and brachiopods. Later in Chris's childhood, he and his father took a month-long "dinosaur vacation," a trip throughout the western United States collecting fossils and visiting many famous dig sites such as Dinosaur National Monument and the Cleveland-Lloyd Quarry in Utah.

Today, Chris is working on a bachelor's degree from Metropolitan State University of Denver with a double major in history and anthropology (focus on archaeology), frequently being named to the Dean's List. Never forgetting his lifelong interest in paleontology, he and his 3-year-old son often visit nearby Dinosaur Ridge and the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

Chris initially began working with the USGS in the Student Temporary Employment Program (STEP) in the Map Sales Department, where his main duties were to complete sales orders for online customers, assist the onsite sales counter, and work on the warehouse reduction project for the Map Sales Warehouse.

Due to budget cuts, he had to seek employment in another part of the USGS. But the Map Sales Department's loss was the Core Research Center's (CRC) gain when in February 2012, Chris found employment working on the CRC Fossil Collection. Typically, his tasks include inventorying the numerous fossil cases, scanning documents (such as Examination and Record (E&R) Reports, locality cards, and punch cards), and other projects related to curating the collection.

Chris's contributions to the USGS all relate to the CRC focus of data preservation. Inventorying the collection helps preserve the information relating to each specimen, noting the collector, locality, species, dates, formation, and so forth. Preserving the original documentation in archival bags and repairing any damage to the documents helps ensure that the information is not lost for future researchers. Scanning documents that support the collection (such as the E&R Reports) not only preserves the data, but also helps identify the geologic timeline for the fossils, which is then entered into a permanent digital database to supplement the inventory of the collection.

Chris is excited that his job helps him maintain his interest in paleontology and also contributes to his studies and his career development. Two career possibilities he is considering are working in museum collections and with archaeological labs in creating databases, both relating to his experience with the CRC Fossil Collection. Yet another way this work experience has helped Chris is by preparing him for possible career opportunities with other Government offices, including the U.S. Forest Service and the National Park Service.