Sara Edwards is the Dinosaur Institute’s Volunteer of the Year for 2016. Sarah is an undergraduate of wildlife biology at UC Davis, specializing in birds, she finds their Mesozoic ancestors, just fascinating: "I have loved dinosaurs since preschool. It is amazing to be able to work on their bones." Sarah joined Dr. Nate Smith at the Ghost Ranch Quarry this past summer and has plans to join the Dr. Chiappe in Utah this coming August.
Corinna Bechko has a degree in zoology, which she has put to use as a behavioral research assistant at the Los Angeles Zoo, a wildlife vet tech at the California Wildlife Center, and as a zoo keeper at the Playboy Mansion.
She has made her living as a writer, mostly of comics, since her horror graphic novel Heathentown was published by Image/Shadowline in 2009. Since then she has worked with Marvel, DC, Boom!, Image, Dynamite, and Dark Horse, among other publishers. She currently co-writes the Image title Invisible Republic, which was nominated for a Hugo award in 2016. But through it all her passion has always been fossils and extinct ecosystems. She is thrilled beyond measure to be fulfilling a lifelong dream by volunteering with the Dinosaur Institute.
Susan Russak joined NHMLA in January 2004 as a docent and quickly discovered that preparing fossils for the Dinosaur Institute was her passion and forte. Combining fossil preparation in the Dino Lab with annual visits to the “Gnatalie” quarry as an excavator, Russak understands the entire collection process and has been a key member of the team since her arrival. Her enthusiasm is contagious and she brings a wonderful understanding of the dynamics of crew leaders, members and volunteers. As a mother of 2 grown children, she is always there with comfort food, a precise ear for listening and strong shoulders that support a diverse group of people that come together in extreme conditions, to follow their passion. Not an easy job, but one that binds us together with excitement and expectations for what’s just beyond our reach in the next rock. Mrs. Russak was awarded the Dinosaur Institute Volunteer of the year award in 2009.
Watch a video of Susan in the field
Jennifer Kerr found her first fossil when she was taken on a school field trip at thirteen years of age, and she was hooked! Kerr went to UCLA, got her B.A. in English while continuing on her digs, and became a teacher of English and Ancient History. Over the years, she took over 2,000 students and adults on various fossil digs. In 1997, she went to southern Spain on a Neanderthal expedition. The team and she spent a few weeks exploring Neanderthal caves for the remains of Neanderthal Man, his middle Paleolithic stone tools, and extinct animal remains in Cueva Negra (Black Cave) at La Encarnacion near Caravaca de la Cruz, and Sima de las Palomas (Hole of the Doves) on the hill of Cabeza Gordo in the province of Murcia, Spain. With her husband, she has also explored the southern coast of England for fossils, and has collected micro-fossils in Egypt. They have also found fossils along the Mississippi River in Minnesota, invertebrate fossils in Utah, and whale and other cetacean bones and shark teeth at Shark Tooth Hill in Bakersfield. She is an active member of the Southern California Paleo Society, and is currently president. For Kerr, after retiring from teaching, being able to work in the Dino Lab is a dream-come-true! “It’s the beginning of the next chapter of my life. I am learning a tremendous amount of skills prepping and restoring dinosaur bones. Working with the wonderful people in the lab and at the museum has been a tremendous experience!”
Tony Turner has always had an innate passion for Paleontology. This passion is readily applied to his work at the Natural History Museum. He applies skills of observation and attention to detail that were gathered from several years of aquarist work at the Roundhouse Marine Studies Lab and Aquarium in sunny Manhattan Beach, CA. Not only can he be found preparing fossils from various dinosaurs, he can be found interpreting his work to the public. Tony brings his passion for science from the lab and makes it accessible to guests from around the world who visit the Museum. Grateful for the opportunity, Tony is a passionate individual ready to bring life to extinct creatures.
Karol spent her career as an elementary school teacher and later as a principal. Since her retirement two years ago, she has taught English as a second language for adults at her former school and served as a volunteer at the Museum, both as a docent-in-training and working in the dinosaur lab. She is excited about being a part of the scientific work of the Museum, especially working on the Sauropod bones from the quarry in Utah. Karol especially enjoys inviting classes from her former school to the Museum to visit on her Dino Lab days, when she can show them the work involved in preparing and restoring dinosaur fossils for display. Education remains her passion, and the Natural History Museum provides a perfect outlet for her efforts.
As a volunteer fossil preparator since 2000, Don Glut has been "into" paleontology since he was seven years old (back in that Cenozoic year of 1951). Although he pursued various professional careers in media and the arts (writing, film directing, music, etc.), he did go on to author numerous books on paleontological subjects, culminating with a continuing series of "dinosaur encyclopedias." Working in the lab has allowed him the luxury of discussing paleontology on an ongoing basis with such dinosaur experts as Dr. Luis Chiappe, while also giving him hands-on experience with the remains of the animals he has been writing about. For Glut, it is always a thrill to clean the matrix away from a fossil bone, knowing that his eyes are the first to see it after so many millions of years.
After retiring from a long career as a computer design engineer in the aerospace industry, Bill Evans found himself looking for interesting volunteer opportunities. Evans' lifelong interest in science, especially the physical sciences, served him well in his career but left little opportunity to spend time working in the natural sciences. After investigating volunteer opportunities at NHMLA, one thing led to another, and he soon became a docent. The chance to share his interests with school children, since his own were grown, became his passion. His focus shifted to dinosaurs when he learned the Dinosaur Institute Director, Dr. Luis Chiappe, had an opening in his computer-related activities focusing on research. Evans signed up for the volunteer position and continues his Dinosaur Institute work in addition to his docent activities. Twice he left the computers behind to participate in DI expeditions—once to Kansas (see photo) collecting fossil fish, and once to Wyoming, to help collect portions of the Triceratops displayed at the entrance to the Dinosaur Hall. Mr. Evans has also received the Volunteer of the Year Award.
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