Sunday, October 23, 2016

Borrego Days Open House

-from the Head Curator

Beautiful blue skies in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
Mammoth skull in plaster cast
Saturday, October 22 and Sunday October 23 are the Borrego Days Open Houses at the Anza-Borrego Foundation's Visitor Center, Archaeology and Paleontology labs.  Saturday, Head Curator Anne Morgan and Curation/Education staff Edgar Bernal Sevilla drove out to Borrego Springs to attend the open houses and talk with some volunteers and specialists.  Many of their volunteers have also been volunteers at the Desert Museum and helped curate large collections of artifacts here.

Volunteers removing part mammoth tusk from plaster cast

The theme for the Paleontological Society this year was "Ancient Horses of Anza-Borrego"
and experts were on hand to show visitors bones of the ancient horses who lived in the park region, as well as comparisons with bones from modern horses.  Several volunteers were working on carefully removing a mammoth tusk from its' plaster cast and talked to Anne and Edgar about the techniques paleontologists used on excavations.  The method of removing animal bones by covering them in plaster to protect them during transport hasn't changed since the early days of paleontological work!

Giant tortoise shell, upside down, still partially in plaster cast
A giant tortoise was also having its' cast removed.  The tortoise was thought to have lived about 2 million years ago, and it was on its' fifth year of having the cast removed.

Fossil echinoid discovered by Morlin Childers and given scientific name  Schizaster morlini in his honor

Edgar was especially excited to meet volunteer Linda Gilbert, who has been working on the recently acquired Morlin Childers paleontological collection.  Since Edgar is working in the Childers archaeology collection recently brought to the Desert Museum, the two had lots of stories to share! Staff were also honored to meet George T. Jefferson, the park's (now retired) paleontologist who talked with them about mammoth bones found by IVC's George Miller in 1986.

It was great seeing so many people out celebrating Borrego Days and enjoying discovering more about the amazing stories found right there in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. We hope some of you got the chance to go out and participate!

Edgar's selfie with a saber-toothed cat 

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Sign of Things to Come

-from Marcie Rodriguez, Education Coordinator

I spent my Wednesday working with Dan Evers 
from the Rainforest Art Project, an organization that is a nature and history-based, educational, healing arts program inspiring children and their families by building a sense of pride and ownership through the creation of permanent ceramic and mosaic art. We have begun to work together to build an entry sign for the Imperial Valley Desert Museum with the students from Seeley Unified School District. This is of particular excitement for me, as I am from Seeley, and my daughter attends the school. This makes this project extremely personal, as the kids I am working with are not simply kids I met on this project, but they are my neighbors, my daughter's friends, and a part of my personal community. 

My daughter helping us with the sign! 

The sign is going to be gorgeous. There are brilliantly colored glass peices that are being placed in a mosaic that will reflect the beautiful natural landscape that surrounds the museum. It will feature native plants, like to ocotillo, and animals, including a roadrunner and a scorpion. While teaching students about the process of making a glass mosaic, I hope to teach them a little bit about their home as well. This will be a fantastic project to be able to work with these students to show them how art, science, and history are not isolated subjects, but are deeply entertwined with each other. 
Dan Evers working with students!
The completed sign will greet visitors as they turn onto Frontage Road towards the Museum.  It has been partially financed with a grant from the Imperial Valley Community Foundation and partially funded by a public benefits grant sponsored by Jack Terrazas with the Imperial County Board of Supervisors.

Friday, October 14, 2016

A Timeless Puzzle

-from Edgar Bernal Sevilla, Curation/Education Staff

Edgar Bernal Sevilla examining ceramic sherds from Yuha Desert, IVDM collection 
Today was one of those days that, long after I move on from the Imperial Valley Desert Museum (hopefully a very, very long time from now), I will fondly look back at with a wisp of a smile on my face.  Like when I decided to try my hand at flintknapping, I was itching for something out of the ordinary. The opportunity came when Neal decided figuring out what the desert Kumeyaay were eating in the Yuha Desert was of the utmost importance. And thus, a new adventure began.

Looking at archaeology as a 3-D ceramic puzzle  
To save us all from details that are most likely only interesting to me, we’ll skip to the part when I at long last found the droids- erm . . .- pottery sherds I was looking for. Had I known as a kid I would be putting ancient pottery sherds together like a jigsaw puzzle in order to send them to get chemical analysis, I would’ve sent myself a giant, paradoxical, time-breaking high five. 

Yuha Desert ceramic sherds, IVDM collection
I spent a few hours moving pieces and figuring out which ones would be the best for analysis. Anne (our head curator and my direct boss); Lindsay Porras, an archaeological researcher currently working on a Master's of Arts in Applied Archaeology from the Department of Anthropology, California State University, San Bernadino, who happened to be in the building doing research on archaeology around the Salton Sea; and I put our brains together and we came up with a criteria for sherds that would be good candidates for chemical analysis- focusing on potsherds that were the bottom of a vessel used for cooking and therefore the most likely to contain traceable food residue.

Piecing together rims to get size of pot
It’s funny that here at the IVDM, I do quite a bit of work that I feel wildly unqualified to do. I often have thoughts of “am I allowed to touch that?” and, perhaps most tellingly, “you’re asking me to do what!?” I often forget that I am now a museum professional with a history degree who has yet to fail in a task I’ve been assigned that my mind tells me I’m wildly unqualified for. Working out here is empowering, and my professional self esteem is frantically trying to catch up to everything I’m learning and my professional competency level. I’m occasionally asked things by other staff members rather than always being the inquirer. I occasionally suggest changes to the museum to my superiors and, to my amazement, they usually agree. And yes Edgar, you ARE allowed to touch those ancient pottery sherds (with curation gloves on, of course.) In fact, you personally were specifically the one asked to do so. And in doing so, I put together a timeless puzzle, taking another step in my journey as a museum professional, and as a confident human being as a whole.

An adventure in archaeology and being a museum professional

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Night of the Tortoises

-from the Head Curator

One of the perks of being a member of the Imperial Valley Desert Museum Society are the members-only events we occasionally hold.  Last night we held our first members-only Evening with an Expert event of the season.  David Lamfrom, Director of the California Desert and Wildlife Programs with the National Parks Conservation Association; wildlife photographer; conservation advocate; and president of the Mojave National Preserve Conservancy, came out to speak about desert tortoises and a youth program he did called Tortoises Through the Lens.

David Lamfrom signed copies of Tortoises Through the Lens after his talk
"As long as I can remember, I've been fascinated by animals: wanting to know what their lives are like, and how I could help them" Lamfrom said.  His passion and enthusiasm for the desert, protecting it, and exposing others to it, came through in every moment of his talk.  He described how, as a native of Southern Florida, he was fascinated by the beauty of the very different landscape of the California deserts- and how he was shocked by locals who not only saw no beauty in where they lived, but couldn't wait to leave it.  In 2008 he was in the first class to win a National Audubon Society Toyota TogetherGreen Fellowship and began to connect children to the desert through photography.  This became Tortoises Through the Lens: a program where kids were given cameras and taken out into the Mojave Desert to discover what they thought mattered.  After a meeting with a small tortoise, the group was hooked.  The result has been a whole new generation of "desert rats", advocating for the desert, the desert tortoises, and their habitats.  The students' photography became Tortoises Through the Lens, a book "of their eighteen-month adventure to seek out, photograph, and learn about the desert tortoises and the harsh land that they inhabit."
Marcie Rodriguez, Edgar Bernal Sevilla, Robin Dodge, David Lamfrom
& Dr. Robert Wishner with Ramses

After the talk, members shared stories about tortoises they had known as pets, as well as their experiences in the desert.  Lamfrom's experience of kids not being able to wait until they could move away was familiar to everyone in the room.  "We're not taught to love our desert" Marcie Rodriguez, IVDM Education Co-ordinator agreed with Lamfrom.  "I didn't know how amazing this place was until I came to the museum.  Now there's a place for people with a passion to come and learn and share ideas and advocate.  It's my goal to make sure no Imperial Valley student feels the way I did about growing up in the Valley."

New outdoor test panels encourage visitors to explore the lives of desert tortoises

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Breaking Point

-from the Head Curator
Christian Schoneman & Bruce Wilcox at IVDM Breaking Point screening
Fall has arrived and with it the beginning of a new season of events at the Desert Museum!  We kicked off the new season with the screening of a fascinating new documentary on the Salton Sea: Breaking Point.  This 2015 award-winning documentary has some of the newest information on the current status of the Salton Sea, as well as some of the possible plans for its future.

What's a movie without popcorn?
 If you follow us on FaceBook or Twitter, are a member, or are on our email list, you saw that because of the expected popularity of the documentary, we held two screenings: Saturday September 24 and Saturday October 1.  Over 50 people attended the events.  They were joined by Terry Weiner, Imperial County Projects and Conservation Coordinator for the Desert ProtectiveCouncil who sponsored the event; Christian Schoneman, Project Leader at the Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge Complex; and Bruce Wilcox, Assistant Secretary for the California Resources Agency.  After watching Breaking Point people were able to talk with Schoneman and Wilcox, and ask questions about the present and future of the Sea and plans for its restoration. Great questions were asked and the discussions were full of interesting information. “There are reasons to be positive” Schoneman said. “There is progress being made.”

Progress has come in many forms.  In this year’s state budget, $80.5 million have been allocated to fund designs and construction of habitats around the edges of the Sea- more than California has ever allocated to the Salton Sea before.  In a speech at Lake Tahoe at the beginning of September, President Obama unveiled plans for the federal government to commit $30 million over the next decade to support Salton Sea restoration efforts.  This is the first time the federal government has signed on to financially support specific Salton Sea management actions.  The first shovels have already begun to work on the Red Hill Bay RestorationProject.  This restoration effort will cover 420 acres of exposed shoreline with water on the south side of the sea, near Calipatria.  If it is successful, the project will be repeated in other places along the shore.  The $3.5 million project will build shallow wetland  terraces, with diverted Salton Sea water and agricultural runoff from the Alamo River to create new habitats along the Red Hill Bay shoreline.

We will keep everyone as updated as possible on the plans moving forward for the Salton Sea. Follow us on FaceBook and Twitter, send us an email to get on our mailing list, or go to our website to find out about becoming a member and be the first to hear about exciting upcoming events!