Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

No rest for the researcher


May 17, 2017

By Alisa Boswell

Managing editor

[email protected]

Most people may see summer as a time of relaxation. But when you run a dinosaur museum, summer vacation doesn't exist, according to the scientists of the Mesalands Community College Dinosaur Museum.

With history to be dug up and more classes to teach, there's no time for throwing your feet up, said museum Director Gretchen Gurtler.

"I turned in my grades for finals on Monday and my first class (for the summer) starts Saturday," Gurtler said last week as she sat hovering over her computer and a stack of paperwork.

"I have the next group (of students) coming the following Wednesday and, on top of that, we had two school tours today. This is the time of year when school tours are coming in, so that's a little intense," she said.

Gurtler said there will be an all-day class at the museum on June 19 in which children get to work with fossils. Parents can sign up their children with Donna Garcia at the community college.

Then there will be a college credit geology class June 26-30 with about 15 students enrolled that will be a mix of students majoring in the field and those who are just interested in field research.

"We don't do just dinosaur digging. We're also hosting Appalachian State out of North Carolina, and their department of geology will be here Wednesday (today), and they're looking at the stratigraphy of the region, because it's a really interesting study here," she said. "This is also the second year we've had researchers in from Oslo, Norway, and they are looking at the Benito Fault."

Museum Curator Axel Hungerbuehler said there is a very mixed clientele with summer classes for the community college.

"My own program's students, then we have college students who need a science credit class, but they are from other disciplines. Then every time, we have high school students who are interested in digging up dinosaurs," he said, adding that the program also gets retirees and other regular community members.

Hungerbuehler said he will also once again be working with the Cottonwood Gulch Foundation of Albuquerque, which has a base camp in the Zuni Mountains.

The foundation hosts summer camps for high school students, taking them out to the wilderness of New Mexico, Utah, Arizona and Colorado, he said, adding that he has joined the program the last several years to do presentations on paleontology, traveling with students to excavation sites.

"The last three years, I have taken them to sites here in eastern New Mexico," he said. "It's also a variety of different types of students with different backgrounds. It makes for an interesting summer."

Then there is more than one week-long field class to be held locally this summer, he said, including one held for students from McLennan Community College out of Waco, Texas.

"Towards the end of the field weeks, it gets a little bit rougher. You're out there every day, all day in 100 degrees, so towards the end, you are thinking, 'I don't want to do this anymore,'" he said, laughing. "It's fun in the beginning. You get out of the classroom, and you do different things throughout the summer that I normally don't during the school year. You're out there doing practical things. But just like anything, you do it every day, all day, it gets boring, and you look forward to going back to the classroom."

Anyone interested in field research or classes, can contact the museum at 575-461-3466.


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