Where Has the Time Gone?!
Sheesh, it’s already July! Summer is going by too fast. It’s gotten a lot hotter too, which I love because that means I can finally wear the shorts I bought. A lot has happened since the last time I wrote a post, so there’s quite a bit to cover. And although the things I’ll write about today aren’t just bird things, they are still super cool, so . . . “bear” with me! And trust me, even if you’re just . . . “lion” around, I think you’ll enjoy this post!
Working With the “Boneman”
Okay, those puns were totally on purpose, because I have been given a rare opportunity to help articulate a grizzly bear and a mountain lion skeleton with Lee Post, also known as the “Boneman.” Articulation is basically reconstructing a skeleton so it has the shape of the organism it belonged to rather than just being a pile of bones. I’ve heard articulation basically described as “adult Legos.” You remove the meat from a carcass, clean every single bone, then put them back together in the way they’re supposed to sit, using wire, glue, and screws. This process can be extremely tedious and challenging. Despite the challenges, I learned a lot about how bones fit together and some of the creative solutions that come with recreating the natural shape of an animal’s skeletal structure.
Learning New Skills
The Boneman taught me how to drill through bones, bend a metal rod in the exact shape of a spine, use a metal grinder, glue wires into bones, hand-sculpt epoxy to mimic cartilage, glue ribs onto vertebrae, and several other things. At first, I was apprehensive about doing a lot of hands-on things like drilling through bone, out of fear I would accidentally mess up or break one of the bones somehow. However, after some careful learning and confidence building, I felt better about my contributions to the process. After all, I’ve never had articulation experience before. Articulation is a lot more complex than I had thought!
One of my favorite projects I got to do for the articulation process was for the mountain lion’s spine. I was given the task to sculpt epoxy very delicately between each of the lion’s vertebrae to mimic the cartilage discs that would naturally occur there. The Boneman described the sculpting process as being “so gentle as if you were petting a mouse on its back, you wouldn’t move its skin or even feel its spine because of how delicately you do it.” He also mentioned that when done correctly, the epoxy would look almost glassy. After carefully shaping the epoxy discs, I felt proud of my results! I also helped epoxy part of the bear’s hyoid bone (a U-shaped bone in the neck which supports the tongue), which was one of the last steps in the articulation process.
A Fantastic Experience
Overall, I learned a great deal about bones, their structure, and how to use more power tools than I expected! I loved being able to see the entire articulation progress in person and on social media posts done by the museum. There was even an article in the local paper about the project as well as a report on Q2 News in Billings. It was a unique and educational experience to be able to watch an experienced artist in his element and work to learn some of his developed techniques. Internships allow for many unique experiences that prepare or introduce you to things related to a potential career field you would want to go into. As a science major, it was super awesome to be a part of a project that is quite uncommon unless you are in the field that is directly related to it.
In the end, the experience I gained from this endeavor was BEARy fascinating!