After retiring from a long career as a computer design engineer in the aerospace industry, Bill Evans found himself looking for interesting volunteer opportunities. Evans' lifelong interest in science, especially the physical sciences, served him well in his career but left little opportunity to spend time working in the natural sciences. After investigating volunteer opportunities at NHM, one thing led to another, and he soon became a docent. The chance to share his interests with school children, since his own were grown, became his passion. His focus shifted to dinosaurs when he learned the Dinosaur Institute Director, Dr. Luis Chiappe, had an opening in his computer-related activities focusing on research. Evans signed up for the volunteer position and continues his Dinosaur Institute work in addition to his docent activities. Twice he left the computers behind to participate in DI expeditions—once to Kansas (see photo) collecting fossil fish, and once to Wyoming, to help collect portions of the Triceratops displayed at the entrance to the Dinosaur Hall. Mr. Evans has also received the Volunteer of the Year Award.
As a volunteer fossil preparator since 2000, Don Glut has been "into" paleontology since he was seven years old (back in that Cenozoic year of 1951). Although he pursued various professional careers in media and the arts (writing, film directing, music, etc.), he did go on to author numerous books on paleontological subjects, culminating with a continuing series of "dinosaur encyclopedias." Working in the lab has allowed him the luxury of discussing paleontology on an ongoing basis with such dinosaur experts as Dr. Luis Chiappe, while also giving him hands-on experience with the remains of the animals he has been writing about. For Glut, it is always a thrill to clean the matrix away from a fossil bone, knowing that his eyes are the first to see it after so many millions of years.
Susan Russak is married with two grown children and found herself with much more spare time than she had in many years. She asked herself, “How should I utilize this precious commodity?” She and her husband are art collectors and have spent much of the last 20 years around people, museums, and reference material that express their interests and passion in collecting. After much deliberation, she concluded that the activity that excited her most was the thought of being in this environment. While trying to decide how best to pursue this goal, she came across a newspaper article that was essentially searching for volunteers to become Docents at NHM. After several days of thinking about the possibilities of such a choice, she became more convinced that this might be the perfect fit for her quest. She set up an appointment to interview for the position and after one afternoon of strolling around the different halls and exhibits, there was no doubt in her mind that this was for her. The pure delight and joy of looking at wonderful examples of now-long-extinct creatures that roamed our planet many years ago just left her breathless and awestruck. She has now been at the Museum for two years and has learned that the main attraction to the student classes that she tours with, almost without exception, is the Dinosaur Hall. By virtue of spending so much time focused on this subject, it is not difficult to explain why this has become her favorite pursuit as well. As a result, she decided to devote a few extra days a week to working with and broadening her knowledge of the ancient creatures in the Dino Lab. The thought of sitting in the lab and holding the bone of a once-living dinosaur, millions of years old, is truly mind boggling to her. In the process of cleaning and preparing these fossils it is possible to learn of their behavior, size, and habits. By further expanding her knowledge of these animals Russak brings more excitement and enthusiasm to the students she interacts with. Moreover, she also regularly joins the Dinosaur Institute crew for our annual fieldwork in Utah and has been the recipient of the Dinosaur Volunteer of the Year Award.
Jennifer Kerr found her first fossil when she was taken on a school field trip at thirteen years of age, and she was hooked! Kerr went to UCLA, got her B.A. in English while continuing on her digs, and became a teacher of English and Ancient History. Over the years, she took over 2,000 students and adults on various fossil digs. In 1997, she went to southern Spain on a Neanderthal expedition. The team and she spent a few weeks exploring Neanderthal caves for the remains of Neanderthal Man, his middle Paleolithic stone tools, and extinct animal remains in Cueva Negra (Black Cave) at La Encarnacion near Caravaca de la Cruz, and Sima de las Palomas (Hole of the Doves) on the hill of Cabeza Gordo in the province of Murcia, Spain. With her husband, she has also explored the southern coast of England for fossils, and has collected micro-fossils in Egypt. They have also found fossils along the Mississippi River in Minnesota, invertebrate fossils in Utah, and whale and other cetacean bones and shark teeth at Shark Tooth Hill in Bakersfield. She is an active member of the Southern California Paleo Society, and is currently president. For Kerr, after retiring from teaching, being able to work in the Dino Lab is a dream-come-true! “It’s the beginning of the next chapter of my life. I am learning a tremendous amount of skills prepping and restoring dinosaur bones. Working with the wonderful people in the lab and at the museum has been a tremendous experience!”
Karol spent her career as an elementary school teacher and later as a principal. Since her retirement two years ago, she has taught English as a second language for adults at her former school and served as a volunteer at the Museum, both as a docent-in-training and working in the dinosaur lab. She is excited about being a part of the scientific work of the Museum, especially working on the Sauropod bones from the quarry in Utah. Karol especially enjoys inviting classes from her former school to the Museum to visit on her Dino Lab days, when she can show them the work involved in preparing and restoring dinosaur fossils for display. Education remains her passion, and the Natural History Museum provides a perfect outlet for her efforts.