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Job Opening: Augustyn Family Curator of Paleontology

Museum LogoWe are excited to announce that the Alf Museum is searching for a new curator! Review of applications will begin by October 22, 2021, and the successful candidate will begin on July 1, 2022. Details are below, or in the linked PDF (available here). Please contact the museum director, Dr. Andy Farke (afarke@webb.org), if you have any questions.


Job Title: Augustyn Family Curator of Paleontology, Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology at The Webb Schools
Department: Museum
Reports to: Director, Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology at The Webb Schools
Status: Salaried/Exempt, Full-time, Benefited

SUMMARY
The Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology at The Webb Schools is accepting applications for the Augustyn Family Curator of Paleontology, with the successful candidate to start employment July 1, 2022. The Alf Museum is the only nationally accredited paleontology museum located on a high-school campus, with a collection housing over 195,000 fossil specimens and a facility including recently renovated collections storage, a fossil preparation lab, and a research lab, as well as two floors of public exhibits. The Augustyn Family Curator will lead fieldwork and undertake museum-based research in paleontology, while mentoring high school students as partners in this work. The Augustyn Family Curator will also develop and deliver paleontology and museum-related courses and organize volunteer opportunities in paleontology for students at The Webb Schools. The ideal candidate will maintain an active research and publication program that complements and extends existing strengths in the Alf Museum’s collections, including (but not limited to) the Mesozoic and Cenozoic vertebrate paleontology of the western United States. The Augustyn Family Curator will collaborate with other museum staff to identify and resolve broad needs in museum collection use and care, set priorities for student and community volunteers and interns in the collection and preparation lab, present research results to the scientific community and the public, and represent the museum at public events and within the Webb community.

RELATIONSHIPS
The Augustyn Family Curator of Paleontology reports to the Museum Director and supervises the Fossil Preparator, Collections Manager, and Collections Assistants, in addition to offering scientific expertise to outreach staff. The Augustyn Family Curator of Paleontology works with the Director to advance the museum’s research program as established by the mission and strategic plan.

ESSENTIAL DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES
Job responsibilities are assigned by the Museum Director and Head of Schools, who can in their sole discretion, alter, add to, or eliminate job assignments anytime, with or without prior notice. The institutional character of the boarding school environment requires that many job responsibilities are scheduled after formal class time, in the afternoons, mealtimes, and on weekends.

  • Specific responsibilities include, but are not limited to:
    Develop and implement a field and museum research program that enhances the museum collection, that is of high scholarship, and that engages Webb students.
  • Assume appropriate teaching responsibilities in The Webb Schools science department, including development of relevant curricula for the evolutionary biology course and paleontology-specific classes.
  • Facilitate activities and collaborations that enhance the museum’s presence within The Webb Schools community.
  • Coordinate the museum volunteer program for Webb students.
  • Coordinate overall use and care of the museum’s collections with the Collections Manager and other collection staff and promote use of the collection by outside researchers.
  • Set priorities for work in the fossil-preparation lab in collaboration with the preparator.
  • Assist in supervising interns at the museum.
  • Ensure that all research, fieldwork, collection work is conducted in accordance with relevant laws, ethical standards, and best practices in the field of paleontology.
  • Represent the museum at public programs and collaborate with outreach staff to present paleontology to broad audiences.
  • Publicize notable research projects and discoveries via professional conferences, news media, and social media.
  • Represent the museum in the scientific and educational communities through participation in professional organizations and conferences.
  • Support and enhance DEI (diversity, equity, inclusion) initiatives in all facets of the museum program.
  • Perform other duties as assigned.

EDUCATION AND EXPERIENCE
The Augustyn Family Curator of Paleontology must possess a Ph.D. in the geological or biological sciences, have published results of paleontological research in peer-reviewed journals, be committed to mentoring highly motivated adolescents in a unique secondary-school setting, and have experience in one or more of the following:

  • Teaching experience (formal or informal education).
  • Experience with museum operations.
  • Knowledge of museum curatorial practices and techniques.
  • Experience with paleontological fieldwork.
  • Leadership experience in a lab or field setting.

OTHER REQUIREMENTS
The Augustyn Family Curator of Paleontology must have or obtain a California driver license with a satisfactory driving record. A criminal background check must be successfully completed before employment can begin.

OTHER SKILLS
The Augustyn Family Curator of Paleontology must have excellent verbal and written communication skills. In addition, effective leadership and interpersonal skills are required to interact with staff, students, and the public, solve problems, and represent The Webb Schools in the community.

PROFESSIONAL QUALITIES OF WEBB FACULTY & STAFF

  • Contributes to the delivery of the mission, vision, and values of the school community.
  • Demonstrates inclusive and equitable practices to ensure that all members of the community feel a sense of belonging.
  • Follows community policies and procedures and models positive behavior.
  • Works effectively as a team member and develops professional and productive relationships with colleagues.
  • Understands boundaries and embraces responsibility for the care of students in loco parentis.
  • Promotes a trust-based community by keeping appropriate confidences.
  • Manages time effectively and meets deadlines and commitments.
  • Communicates and responds to all school communications in a timely manner.
  • Exhibits flexibility and adaptability to change as needed.

PHYSICAL REQUIREMENTS
The physical requirements of this position are those needed to successfully fulfill the job duties and responsibilities articulated above. As prescribed by law, reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions of this position.

The expected start date for this position will be with the 2022-2023 academic year.

Interested candidates should send their cover letter (2 to 3 pages, including statements outlining goals for research and fieldwork programs as well as educational philosophy) and curriculum vitae to:

Andrew A. Farke, Ph.D.,
Director, Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology at The Webb Schools
careers@webb.org
Fax: (909) 482-5272

Review of applications begins by October 22, 2021

The Webb Schools are an Equal Employment Opportunity Employer. We are committed to providing equal employment opportunities and do not discriminate based on perceived or actual race, color, national or ethnic origin, religion, sex, pregnancy (or any related conditions), age, marital status, military or veteran status, medical condition, gender/identity/expression, sexual orientation, or any other characteristic protected by state or federal law.
www.webb.org

Virtual Museum Now Available!

Explore the Alf Museum online! Our virtual museum is now available, for both the Hall of Life and Hall of Footprints.

Directions:
– Click on the white circles to move through the museum.
– Click on small blue circles for information on the fossil specimens.
– Scroll up or down on your mouse to zoom in to fossils and exhibits.

Continue reading

Raymond Alf biography now available

Alf book coverDr. Raymond Alf, perhaps the greatest educator in the history of The Webb Schools, was an incredible educator and coach who lived on campus for nearly 70 years. Alf was born in China to missionary parents, and then became a nationally ranked collegiate sprinter, a renowned paleontologist who won a multitude of teaching awards, an inspirational motivator to generations of Webb students, and a man who founded the world’s only nationally accredited paleontology museum on a high school campus. To tell Alf’s story and honor his legacy, Museum Director Don Lofgren and Jennifer Liu ’05 (Webb’s current Director of Parent Relations & Special Events) wrote “Moment of Time: The Life of Raymond Alf and the History of the Peccary Society,” a definitive treatment of Alf’s life and the museum that bears his name.

The book was based on extensive research. Alf’s daughters (Janet & Mimi), his five grandchildren, and eighty of his former students and acquaintances were interviewed. Eric Williams, the Alf Family archivist, provided access to hundreds of family documents, diaries, and photos. The book has 15 chapters:1–6 are centered on Alf’s childhood, track career, and early years at Webb; 6–11 describe the peccary trips, Alf’s unbounded enthusiasm for teaching, and the establishment of a permanent museum at Webb; 12–14 recount his later years when Ray and his wife Pearl lived in a house on the Webb campus built specifically for them; and 15 reviews Dr. Alf’s incredible Webb legacy.

A complimentary copy of the book is available to anyone who donates $100 or more to the Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology. To do so, please use this link.

 

World Class Collections Make a World Class Museum

For decades, the Alf Museum has hosted stellar exhibits, students, staff, lab spaces, and fossils—yet, the collections storage space for priceless documents of past life did not match our aspirations to be a truly world class facility. The fossil collection is the heart of our museum. Cabinets and shelves were bursting at the seams with specimens, limiting the museum’s ability to collect new fossils and safely house historical ones. We needed additional space, and we needed it soon! Constructing a new building or expanding into existing rooms wasn’t an option. Fortunately, storage technology offered a creative solution.

Collections space, prior to renovation

If you can’t make new space, the best alternative is to make existing space more flexible. Sliding rows of cabinets offered a perfect solution! McMurray-Stern, a local company that specializes in storage for museums, archives, government facilities, and businesses, worked with Alf Museum staff to create a new vision for the old collection space. The final plans provided a 60 percent increase in storage capacity. The previous cabinets, along with many newly purchased ones, would be placed onto a carriage system. Each bank of cabinets sits atop a metal frame housing an internal motor—with the touch of a button, the whole bundle of cabinets slides along rails set into the floor. Aisles open and close to permit access to each row of storage.

Removing cabinets from the collection space.

In order to install the system, the previous configuration had to be removed first. But, it wasn’t as simple as just removing old cabinets and shelving. All of the fossils had to be moved, too. The downstairs exhibit hall was closed off and used as a temporary storage space for everything. In mid-May 2017, after the last school tour of the year, a crew of museum staff, volunteers, and Webb students sprang into action. Seventy new cabinets, ultimately slated for the collection, were moved off a truck and into the Hall of Footprints. Drawers of fossils from the collection were moved into each cabinet, with the location of every drawer and cabinet carefully marked and recorded for later reference. Every single drawer was also photographed, to provide a complete visual record of our collection—the first time it has ever been done! Once the old cabinets in the collection were emptied, they moved into the temporary storage space. For the first time in decades, the collection room was completely empty!

Next, a construction crew poured a new layer of concrete to support the compactor system, followed by carriage and cabinet installation. Once each bank was in place, museum staff and volunteers moved the fossils back. It took long hours and late nights, but finally every cabinet and every fossil was back where it belonged. The careful organizational efforts of collections manager Gabe Santos, working with the whole museum team, ensured that each specimen was where it belonged—not a small task when moving 231 cabinets and more than 175,000 fossils!

But, sliding rows of cabinets are only the most visible part of the renovation. We also needed to upgrade the work space to match. Curation practices have advanced considerably since the founding of the museum. In the “old days,” it was sufficient to record data on an index card and paint a permanent label on each specimen. Today, every specimen also is entered into a computer database and photographed digitally. Particularly delicate fossils get custom foam mounts made using advanced archival materials. Each of these steps requires special materials and workspaces. So, the final portion of the project included the installation of new computers, photographic equipment, and tables for volunteers and staff to process fossils and their associated data.

The collections upgrade provides space not just for the acquisition of new fossils, but also for the proper storage of “old” ones. Prior to the renovation, many of the fossils were crowded into drawers, sometimes with bones sitting on top of other bones. This is not a good way to store fragile fossils—overcrowding contributes to fossil damage. The next big task is to “uncrowd” many of our fossils (particularly those from the early years of the museum) and place them into appropriate containers. Many fossils also remain uncataloged, and have not been fully identified, studied, or entered into the museum database. There is lots to do yet!

The renovated collection space.

“Completion of this project means our collections are now more fully accessible, thus increasing our global footprint in the paleontological research and museum education communities. Also, we now have space to house all the fossils that will be found by Webb students on peccary trips over the next few decades,” said museum director Don Lofgren.

The Alf Museum extends special thanks to key donors of this project, including Blake and Andrea Brown ‘68, Yanji Luo and Li Jiang P‘20, the Zemurray Foundation, Sam Zemurray ‘61, Dodd Fischer ‘61, Ronald Quon ‘55, the McMahan Family Fund at the Rancho Santa Fe Foundation, James Wang ‘51, Hugh Pitcher ‘68, Richard Kron ‘68, Jason Pasley ‘96, Monica Atiyeh Whitaker ‘96, Brian Zipser ‘96, Christopher Cord ‘60, William Marshall ‘96, Daniel Dexeus ‘96, and Heidi Marti ‘06.

Rare tooth find reveals horned dinosaurs in eastern North America

Close up of the ceratopsid (horned dinosaur) tooth. This is the first evidence of horned dinosaurs in eastern North America. Credit: Photo by George Phillips, MDWFP Museum of Natural Science.

New research from Augustyn Family Curator, Dr. Andy Farke

A chance discovery in Mississippi provides the first evidence of an animal closely related to Triceratops in eastern North America. The fossil, a tooth from rocks that were between 68 and 66 million years old, shows that two halves of the continent previously thought to be separated by seaway were probably connected before the end of the Age of Dinosaurs.

“The fossil is small, only the size of a quarter, but it packs a ton of information,” said Andrew Farke, a paleontologist at the Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology at The Webb Schools in Claremont, California, and one of the authors on the paper announcing the discovery. “The shape of this tooth, with its distinctive split root, is absolutely unique among dinosaurs,” Farke continued. “We only have the one fossil, but it’s more than enough to show that an animal very similar to Triceratops–perhaps even Triceratops itselfmade it into eastern North America.”

Horned dinosaurs, or ceratopsids, had previously only been found in western North America and Asia. A seaway down the middle of North America, which linked the Arctic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico, split the continent into eastern and western halves during much of the Late Cretaceous (around 95 to 66 million years ago). This means that animals that evolved in western North America after the splitincluding ceratopsidswere prevented from traveling east. Due to a lack of preserved rock and fossils, scientists weren’t sure precisely when the seaway disappeared and animals could once again walk freely across North America. The newly described fossil strongly suggests that this happened when large dinosaurs such as Tyrannosaurus and Triceratops were still around, before the major global extinction 66 million years ago.

 

Tooth of a ceratopsid horned dinosaur from Mississippi, held next to a left lower jaw half of Triceratops from Montana. Credit: Photo by Jeremy Copley, MDWFP Museum of Natural Science

 

George Phillips, paleontology curator at the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks’ Museum of Natural Science and discoverer of the fossil, was also an author on the paper. He described the moment of discovery: “I was excited because I knew it was a dinosaur tooth. I called my volunteer, Michael Estes, over to share in the discovery, and he was beside me in seconds. I knew it wasn’t a duck-billed dinosaur, and within 30 minutes of having found it, I posted on Facebook that I’d collected some rare plant-eating dinosaur tooth. It was none other than my colleague Lynn Harrell who made the suggestion, within minutes of my post, that it looked like a ceratopsian tooth.”Although previously known fragments indicated horned dinosaurs in Maryland and North Carolina, those fossils were of more “primitive” species that likely lived in the area well before it was separated from western North America. “The discovery is shocking because fossils of ceratopsid horned dinosaurs had never been discovered previously from eastern North America. It’s certainly the most unique and important vertebrate fossil discovery I’ve ever made,” said Phillips.

The ceratopsid tooth, from the lower jaw of the animal, was found in the Owl Creek Formation in northern Mississippi. Although that part of the state was under water at the time, it was fairly close to land. Farke and Phillips speculate that the tooth probably washed out to sea from a horned dinosaur living along the coastline in that area.

The fossil is housed at the Mississippi Museum of Natural Sciences, and published in the journal PeerJ. The open access article can be downloaded here.

 

The discovery site of the tooth from a ceratopsid horned dinosaur in Mississippi. Credit: Photo by Andrew Smith, Mississippi State University Center for Resolving Human-Wildlife Conflicts