Cultural Insights: Interviews in the Creative Sector #15 … Marie Angel, California Academy of Sciences


Title (Dublin Core)

Cultural Insights: Interviews in the Creative Sector #15 … Marie Angel, California Academy of Sciences
Marie Angel Oral History, 2020/03/27

Description (Dublin Core)

In response to COVID-19, the Evansville Museum of Arts, History and Science launched the mini-series, "Cultural Insights: Interviews in the Creative Sector," to highlight colleagues and professionals working in the same or similar field of museum professionals.
Marie Angel, Curatorial Assistant I, Geology, California Academy of Sciences,

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Curator's Tags (Omeka Classic)

Collection (Dublin Core)

Collecting Institution (Bibliographic Ontology)

The Evansville Museum of Art, History and Science

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Date Modified (Dublin Core)


Interviewer (Bibliographic Ontology)

Tory Schendel Cox

Interviewee (Bibliographic Ontology)

Marie Angel

Location (Omeka Classic)

San Francisco
United States of America

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Duration (Omeka Classic)


abstract (Bibliographic Ontology)

Summary - In response to COVID-19, the Evansville Museum of Arts, History and Science launched the mini-series, "Cultural Insights: Interviews in the Creative Sector," to highlight colleagues and professionals working in the same or similar field of museum professionals.
Marie Angel, Curatorial Assistant I, Geology, California Academy of Sciences,

Transcription (Omeka Classic)

Tory Schendel Cox- 00:01
Hi my name is Tory Schendel Cox, I’m the (inaudible) curator of art at the Evansville museum and today I’m so excited to have Marie here from the Cal Academy of Science in California and Marie please take it from here.

Marie Angel- 00:14
Hi thanks so much for having me I really appreciate the opportunity to talk to you and everybody else about the work that we're doing at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. I’m a curatorial assistant in the geology department and I've worked there for about two years so myself and along with our other curatorial assistant assists the geology collections manager with the care and conservation of our collection. Our collection includes fossil vertebrates and invertebrates minerals for foraminifera which are just little tiny micro fossils and diatoms which are single celled algae. And yea, like I said I've been there since 2018 and I started out part time but about a year ago I became full time with some funding from an NSF OCE Ocean Sciences grant which I'll get into a little bit later. So, a lot of my work is data entry you know I think I have a lot of friends that have said why how can you work from home right now when you know you have to be in front of a specimen and you have to look at the specimens but trust me a lot of it is just looking at google sheets all day. (both laughing)

Marie Angel- 01:24
So, yeah so, we, we do a lot of digitization in our department and this doesn't necessarily just mean taking photographs of our specimens although that is really important. we do have a geology flicker page which I would encourage everybody to go check out if you just search in google California Academy of Sciences geology flicker you should find it right away. So, it does include a lot of photos from our collection. So, digitization includes entering both specimen data and locality data. So, in geology it's really important for us to know where something came from who collected it and when it was collected and this this data is also served to larger data aggregators such as GBIF so we really want to make all of our data available both to the larger research community and to the public. So, you can go on to GBIF and see what we've been doing. Some other tasks that I do when I’m not in front of my computer are giving collections tours, table and specimens at academy events such as our weekly Thursday night nightlife events which are now going online so I would encourage you to get on Facebook and find some of our nightlife that'll be online for the foreseeable future. and also table at some public outreaches last year for the spring break period we had a spring festival called dyno days so we brought out a lot of specimens and were able to show off some dinosaur specimens to kids and their families which was really fun everybody always loves seeing dinosaurs we also bring specimens to other institutions if table specimens before Lindsay Wildlife Experience in Walnut Creek which is where I used to work we've also we always have a couple cases at the San Francisco gem and mineral show which also takes place in Golden Gate park so we bring our minerals specimens to that.

Marie Angel- 03:33
Um, we also work a lot with our exhibits department we had to move and exhibit last year of minerals so we had to take everything off exhibit condition report and photograph over 100 mineral specimens and then move to the exhibit to a new location. So that was actually like really fun and got to just you know look at some pretty shiny things for a few weeks (laughing) because you can't go wrong with that and we're also preparing right now to open a new collections gallery exhibit next year that will be all of our all of our collection departments will be represented in that gallery so we're just working on selecting some stories and specimens from our collection right now. And additionally, I will rehouse specimens as needed. So, a lot of our specimens are stored in paper trays that are kind of falling apart not in the best conditions so, we want to make sure that we transfer all of our specimens to acid free trays and, and transfer them from plastic files to glass files. So, I think a lot of people kind of think like oh it's just a rock or it's just a fossil like what can go wrong what can happen you know it's kind of sitting there in a shelf and whatever but you know environmental controls are still very important for geological collection. Um, things like temperature and humidity and light can really affect both fossils and minerals, especially light conveyed certain types of minerals. So, we do want to make sure that, you know, our specimens are preserved for future generations to study and preserved in the best condition that we can. So, we are always making sure that our environmental controls are, as, you know, as good as we can make them. Um, and yeah, I was just going to go over a couple of the grants that we have

Tory Schendel Cox- 05:30
Yea, go for it

Marie Angel- 05:30
right now. So, we have a grant from the NSF called the Eastern Pacific invertebrate communities of the center zoic, or EPIC for short, which is a lot easier to say. It's a partnership of nine natural history museums up and down the West Coast here. And we're working together to digitize marine invertebrate fossils found in the eastern Pacific. These specimens span the last 66 million years of life of Earth history. And during the course of this grant, we're working to make 1.6 million specimen records available online through digital data and photographs. And we're also digitized, we're also geo referencing 1000s of localities, aiming for 35,000 localities. So that'll be something that we'll be working on from home during this time is just, you know, we can't really do a lot of specimen data entry right now. But we can do geo referencing from home that just requires an internet connection. So, we're (inaudible), you know, by doing this collaboration with other institutions and utilizing our collections, we can reconstruct entire marine ecosystems from the past, which is really cool. So, researchers use this data to understand how marine ecosystems responded to recovered from a number of events in Earth's history, including the Paleocene Eocene thermal maximum, and the transition to the modern Ice House climate approximately 2.5 million years ago. So, by understanding this past climate change of Earth, and we can better forecast and predict our future. So, you know, you really have to look to the past to kind of predict and understand future climate change, which is a lot of the work that we do. And then our other big grant that we have right now, which is also an NSF grant, the ocean scientists grant I mentioned previously. So, I am overseeing one volunteer and have assisted a couple students last year. And we'll have hopefully some more students coming this summer from UC Davis, which is one of the organist organizations we're partnering with right now. So, we are utilizing our microfossil collection to construct assemblages, which researchers are using this data to inform future predictions for these ecosystems in the face of climate change. So again, looking to the past to inform the future, which is kind of our overarching theme right now with our research. So, I helped to complete some research into the quality sediment samples to analyze so I don't know if you remember when you were visiting, but you saw like all these little vials of essentially what looks like sand. So those are actually from the Unocal collection. So, oil drilling, which this operation was going from about 1890 to 2005.

Tory Schendel Cox- 08:39

Marie Angel- 08:40
UniCal had this collection of sediment samples that were extracted from about 8000 cores, both in the ocean, or right off the ocean and off the coast, and on land. So, we're looking into the ones that were drilled right off of the coast of Santa Barbara. Um, so UniCal basically had this huge collection, they actually used to employ micro paleontologists to analyze these samples. And then the story is that one day, they just decided they were going to just throw all of these samples away. And some micro paleontologist came in and said, like, no, no, no, like, you can't do that. There's actually really, these are really important. There's important data in here is important specimens in here. So, the collection was rescued and deposited with the California Academy of Sciences. So, we are still working on getting those. Those vials re housed taking them out of these gross wooden drawers that have been stored off site and transferring them to nice metal drawers. And then we're cataloguing them as we file them in our collection. So, then we know exactly I can say, Oh, you know, I’m looking for this core number and it's database So I know exactly what to where to go to to find it. So that's a lot of the work that I was doing. With that, we're also hopefully going to have a couple more students coming this summer, like I said, um, so yeah, we're just we have researchers who are going to use this data to understand how marine ecosystems have responded to rapid environmental change in the past and how they can respond to future change.

Marie Angel- 10:30
And I don't know if I mentioned the title of this project, but it's the Holocene and Anthropocene as windows into the future of marine systems, we don't have a catchy title for it yet. So, we're still gonna Muse on that while we're on shelter in place here.

Tory Schendel Cox- 10:47

Marie Angel- 10:30
So, we're basically that means that we're gonna be utilizing these geologically young marine sediments from the California margin to reconstruct these the microfossil response to environmental change. And this work is of particular importance because these coastal ecosystems play a critical role in carbon sequestration, marine fisheries, coastal economies and cycling of nutrients. So, we are just going to be cataloging digitizing and identifying these fossils samples collected along the California margin. And these materials will be combined with samples from available sediment cores to develop a public online digital database through which the research community may access project data and results. So that's just a little bit of what we have been working on. Yeah, both before we were on the shelter in place, and now from home,

Tory Schendel Cox- 11:53
This amazing that is a lot of information and a lot of things that you're doing. Out of curiosity, is there a pivotal piece of information that you could share with us regarding these trends and the ecosystem that you're finding?

Marie Angel- 12:09
Um, I don't really have that information. I think it's, it's still being worked on. And so, as a curatorial assistant, I’m not the one doing this research, but I’m supporting the research that's happening in our department,

Tory Schendel Cox- 12:24
Which is just as secure and vital.

Marie Angel- 12:26
Yes, yes. So, we do the ERPIC grant does have a website, which I will send to you to make available. We don't have a website yet for the microfossil grant, but hopefully, we will soon.

Tory Schendel Cox- 12:46
So then, out of curiosity, how many pieces are in the collection that you specifically work with?

Marie Angel- 12:52
Um, our collection, our whole geology collection is millions of specimens, especially when you count, you know that the hundreds of 1000s probably millions of microfossil collections that we have and the diatom collection. So yeah, I don't think I don't have a firm number for you. But I can tell you that it is, it is multiple millions.

Tory Schendel Cox- 13:18
It is there any piece in particular that is your absolute favorite.

Marie Angel- 13:23
I’m kind of particular I, I’m more partial to our ice age, fossils, especially the megafauna because I feel like that's a little bit easier to relate to. So, I don't have a geology background. I don't have a biology background. I've really no science background whatsoever. So, I kind of just fell into working in just in science museums, my background is museum studies and collections management. So, for me not having that background, I find that it's kind of easier to relate to our ice age specimens. Just because I can kind of imagine like, okay, yeah, like in the Bay Area 10 15,000 years ago, you know, these animals were here. They were walking around, they were, you know, they were everywhere. So, I’m yeah, I think those those ones are my favorite. I think in particular, who the my probably my favorite is our smiladon from the La Brea Tar Pits in LA, we affectionately refer to as kitty. Just because it's a really fascinating fossil and just looks really cool.

Tory Schendel Cox- 14:36
And that's the important part. They're really relating to the artifacts because what's interesting about even my institution is I’m in charge of roughly same thing, we don't have a specific number of 15,000 artifacts from prehistory to modernity. And although I’m a generalist and a little bit of everything, I don't know everything, when it's hard to therefore the more I can relate to something the more meaning it brings to me the more i can understand how my public relates to it that is how it's going to get more validity at least in my mindset of why I’m going to exhibit something so

Marie Angel- 15:12
Yeah, exactly.

Marie Angel- 15:13
Like I’ve taken those specimens out on to public outreaches and I think it's just easier a little bit to you for like the public to relate to those specimens because I think for some people and even for me it can be hard to like relate to a specimen that's you know 70 million years old like it's, it's kind of hard to like picture that in your head and like think of like even if you see artistic renditions it's hard to say like this was a thing that existed you know x million of years ago but if you say like okay this was an animal that existed right here where I’m standing 15,000 years ago it's just like a little bit easier to relate to

Tory Schendel Cox- 15:53
and probably even to digest to as someone who may not be as palatable to the sciences or in my case the arts

Marie Angel- 16:01

Tory Schendel Cox- 16:02
it's just easier to build that human connection because again that's why we exist.

Marie Angel- 16:05
Yeah, and even if you think about like you know at that time period there were humans here i mean we had our indigenous tribes here and they were living with these animals so i think that also makes it a little bit easier to kind of like understand and relate to

Tory Schendel Cox- 16:21
Absolutely. Well, is there anything else you'd like to share with our viewers

Marie Angel- 16:26
I would just like to share that I just I hope everyone is staying safe and staying inside you know get a little bit of fresh air when you can go for a walk around your block (laughing) but I just hope that everyone's staying safe and healthy and that you know hopefully everyone can go back to work soon, I, I can't complain that I’m you know I’m able to work from home so you know I’m, I’m very very grateful for that but I know that there are a lot of people out there struggling so i hope that everyone is able to get back to work,

Tory Schendel Cox- 17:04
Well, we're definitely grateful for your time and we look forward

Marie Angel- 17:08
Thank you

Tory Schendel Cox- 17:08
to seeing the website and what you're doing to and again so this is the Evansville museum recording and Marie thank you so much for your time and don't be a stranger.

Marie Angel- 17:18
Yes, thank you so much and don't be a stranger either it's great to talk to you.

Tory Schendel Cox- 17:21
Absolutely, bye for now.

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