Dinosaur museum director selected

Special to the QCS

Mesalands Community College is pleased to announce that Gretchen Gurtler is the new director of the Mesalands Community College’s Dinosaur Museum after the recent retirement of Craig Currell.

Gurtler was selected because of her academic background and previous field experience in paleontological investigation.

“Gretchen is highly dedicated and brings impeccable credentials to this position,” Dr. Mildred Lovato, president of Mesalands Community College said. “She has a brilliant background, with a blend of administration and academics at a high-level. This type of combination is quite rare.”

Gretchen is originally from The Plains, Va. She received her bachelor’s degree in political science and journalism and a master’s degree in public administration on a non-profit track, and a minor in museum science from Texas Tech University in Lubbock.

She is currently enrolled in the Center for Advanced Study of Museum Science and Heritage Management at Texas Tech.

Gurtler has seven years field experience in paleontological investigation. During her field work, she found a new species of a fossil near Post, Texas. This new species is approximately 220 million years old and lived during the Triassic period. This new species is similar to the phytosaur, which was closely related to the crocodile.

Gurtler was the recipient of a National Science Foundation Fellowship in 2009-2011. During this time, she assisted with the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) program, which was funded through the National Science Foundation. Gurtler worked with high school teachers to combine science in math classes.

Part of the National Science Foundation Fellowship allowed Gurtler to intern anywhere in the U.S. and she chose Mesalands. In June 2010, she accepted an internship at the college.

“I chose Mesalands because I always wanted to work at a museum and Dr. Axel Hungerbuehler was here, and he has the foremost authority in what I am studying,” Gurtler said. “It was also very fortunate for me to work in a museum that is devoted entirely to dinosaurs.”

For the first six months of her internship, Gurtler worked on the Shanks Collection. The collection is a donation of over 15,000 specimens from the late Dr. Howard Shanks and his family. This collection includes a wide array of fossils and minerals. Gurtler sorted, catalogued, and prepped many of these specimens, which are now on display in the museum, and in the classroom as part of the teaching collection.

Dr. Axel Hungerbuehler, Natural Sciences/Museum curator at Mesalands Community College, was Gurtler’s supervisor during her internship and comments on her work performance:

“Gretchen is absolutely dedicated to her job,” Hungerbuehler said. “I’m very impressed about what she knows, and I am confident we will see some positive changes in the museum. She has some great ideas and I am pleased to have her as my new boss.”

Some of those changes include focusing more on academics and research. This would include offering more internships for students in the field of paleontology.