And I don't mean by watching reruns of the Flintstones.

In my last post, I mentioned that my work for Time Traveler Tours & Tales is only one of my jobs. I also work in collections at the Rancho La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles. The site is famous for being one of the only museums in the country that has a live paleontological excavation on site. And here's the thing:

I love paleontology.

The Tar Pits are in the Hancock Park section of Los Angeles. The attraction boasts the legacy of what happened during the Ice Age (1.8 million years ago to 11,700 years ago): that's when asphalt “seeps” trapped millions of plants, insects, and animals over the years.

Our team excavates chunks of these asphalt seeps to get a unique snapshot of the environment and biodiversity of one place at one time. It’s an immensely important resource to not only paleontologists, but also to climate change biologists.

My colleagues are working on excavating a huge block of tar right now, and it’s unique because they have to dissolve or clean away the tar to get to the bones, rather than chip away at rock like most fossil excavations. The bones aren’t fossilized because the tar preserves them. Some of them look brand new. Even wood preserves here at Rancho La Brea! 

Once my colleagues excavate the material, identify it all, and clean off all the tar, they give the bones to me to process it into the museum’s permanent collection.

The most frequent animals I work with tend to be Dire wolves (Canis dirus), of Game of Thrones fame, and Saber-toothed cats (Smilodon fatalis). I am professionally trained to write numbers on every bone, write (yes! hand write!) the information into a catalog book, and database it.

After that, I use special materials and methods to find each bone a home in our collections space. The large bones usually just get a box, but small animals, such as rabbits or rodents, require foam, vials, and small labels.

My jobs with TTT&T and La Brea aren't a surprise to any of my friends or family. I always felt a strong connection to history. My very first “chapter” books were Laura Ingalls Wilder and any type of historical fiction that I could get from the library. My curiosity was insatiable. I read through the entire dinosaur section of the library, then picked up the first book in the next shelf. It was Lucy, by Dr. Donald Johanson. I was sold: from that point on, I wanted to be a human paleontologist.

I was determined to connect with Dr. J in the pre- social media age. When I was 12, I called information to get his number and talked to his wife. I told her that Dr. J was my hero. A few months later, I received an autographed National Geographic and an invitation to see his lecture at a local university. I walked right up to Dr. J and he remembered me!

“I am honored to shake your hand,” he told me. Even since then, he has always been supportive of me in my journeys with time-travel. I’m sure I’m not the only kid he’s inspired.

My role at TTT&T fulfills a complementary role for me: that of becoming a steward of transmitting information to a new generation. I am confident that a kid is going to use In the Footsteps of Giants during their time exploring Florence, and it’s going to flip the switch in them, too.

Books changed my life in the 80s and 90s. Our mobile apps are going to change lives in the same way now.

What place or time would you like to experience as a
Time Traveler Tour?
Click "comment" to the right and let us know.


Thanks for reading!
Melissa Dusette
Museum Liaison & Community Manager
Time Traveler Tours