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MLA Full: "Fossil Fish, PT. III: The Preparation." YouTube, uploaded by thebrainscoop, 25 September 2014,
MLA Inline: (thebrainscoop, 2014)
APA Full: thebrainscoop. (2014, September 25). Fossil Fish, PT. III: The Preparation [Video]. YouTube.
APA Inline: (thebrainscoop, 2014)
Chicago Full: thebrainscoop, "Fossil Fish, PT. III: The Preparation.", September 25, 2014, YouTube, 05:59,
So.... we've got all of these fish fossils. Now what? To the prep lab!

Part I: In Search of Fossil Fish:
Part II: Fossil Fish: A History:

Check out "Lost World of Fossil Lake: Snapshots from Deep Time," by Lance Grande
Gems and Gemstones: Timeless Natural Beauty of the Mineral World, by Lance Grande:

Big thanks to The Field Museum's Lance Grande, Jim Holstein, and Akiko Shinya for their assistance in making this video series possible.


Producer, Writer, Creator, Host:
Emily Graslie

Producer, Editor, Camera:
Tom McNamara

Theme music:
Michael Aranda

Created By:
Hank Green

Special Guest:
Lance Grande

Production Assistant:
Katie Kirby
Filmed on Location and Supported by:
The Field Museum in Chicago, IL

Thanks to Caitrin McCullough for transcribing, and Tony Chu, Katerina Idrik, Felipe Torres, and Seth Bergenholtz for translating this episode!

Emily: Hey! We're here back at the Field Museum with Akiko, who is the fossil preparator. And we are going to be working on some of the fish that we excavated from Wyoming! What's next? 


Emily: So what kinds of tools and things are necessary to prepare a fossil like this?

Akiko: Well, you're holing the basic tool called the pin vice. It's a pin vice holder with a carbide needle here.

Emily: So essentially, it's just like a fancy metal pick? 

Akiko: Pretty much. 

Emily: So you have that. We have a high powered microscope that we have a light on so we can see the scales and the bones. 

Akiko: And then we scrape away the matrix away from the fossils.

Emily: And that's it? 

Akiko: Yeah! Basically. 

Emily: Alright, I'm going to try my hand, literally, at this.


Emily: I'm just afraid I'm going to like scratch away the whole thing. I wanna see what's going on.

Akiko: Yeah you can see fine. Here if you, uh, if you start, follow this bone (like a long bone). If you, uh, push down the pedal, the little gentle air flow will come out of this hose and get rid of your matrix for you. Very gentle air coming out of your hose. If you keep on scraping away little tiny bit at a time. And then you can start to see, like brown. And that's basically the bone.

Emily: Oh! I can see it starting to come out. Woah! This is awesome!

Akiko: (laughs)


Emily: Have these techniques been used historically? Like how much has this changed from when people were preparing fossils a hundred years ago? 

Akiko: I think that's it's basically the same. 

Emily: It hasn't changed that much?

Akiko: Yeah it hasn't really changed much. Um, maybe the microscope got much better. 

Emily: Yeah! (laughs) Why do you think it hasn't changed that much?

Akiko: Well it's just a basic thing, you know? Like how much more... what sort of invention can you do to make change to hand tools? You know, the basic idea is to have the point and scratch the matrix away.  


(Loud screeching noise)

Emily: That's a very weird noise. So what is this thing that I am now using? 

Akiko: This is an air scribe. Micro jet number one.

Emily: And why is it making that noise? 

Akiko: Oh! It's just, it's operated by compressed air and there is a hole in the tool that releases the air pressure. As the needle vibrates.

Emily: Oh, wow.

Akiko: And that makes that weird noise. 

Emily: It's way more efficient than doing it by hand. But I also feel like I'm going to destroy the specimen. 

Akiko: (Laughs)

Emily: If I continue-- woah. I just blew off a scale. I screwed it up. So we've got the total manual--

Akiko: Mhmm

Emily: --version of this, which is just slow picking at the matrix. Then you got this crazy thing that makes my hand feel really weird and makes a funny noise but this is like your mechanized miniature jackhammer?

Akiko: Yup!

Emily: Pneumatic jackhammer. And then there's another way that you can also excavate a fossil.

Akiko: Sure!

Emily: What's that?

Akiko: Air abrasion machine.

Emily: An air abrasion machine. Alright, let's go check it out. Yeah, you can show me how to do it. You wanna sit here?

Akiko: No it's okay. That way you get like a view of what you can do. Keep on moving the nozzle so you know, you don't like poke a crater in it. Some parts of the matrix will be easy to remove, and some parts of the matrix might be uh more umm stubborn. Here.

Emily: This is the most mechanized way to prepare a fossil. What is this?

Akiko: Inside of the tank has is this fine powder- dolomite powder. Very fine powder.

Emily: And this is blasting the powder onto the fossil?

Akiko: Yup! And then knock the matrix away. Kind of like a miniature sandblaster.

Emily: Oh! Okay. I think this is a coprolite. 

Akiko: Oh yeah! (laughing)

Emily: Fossilized poop. Alright! This is amazing! You can just like watch the whole tail coming out. Kind of like... a coloring book. 

Akiko: (laughing)

Emily: To me you're just kinda like slowly filling in all the spaces and looking at all the different parts. Also I'm having a blast...

Akiko: (pity pun laughter)

Emily: ...with this pneumatic machine. You get that pun? That was a joke.

Akiko: ha-ha. 

Emily: Get it? Oh man... I mean it was just cool that we got to go to Wyoming and we got to be there in the field excavating these fossils and then bringing them all the way back here and then seeing all the work that goes into comparing--

Akiko: Yep!

Emily: I mean we've probably been here an hour and I've got, you know, a square inch of fossil work done so it gives me a better appreciation for like the giant dinosaurs that are on display or even the rest of the fish.

Akiko: Yeah.

Emily: It's cool. 

Akiko: Cool! 

Emily: Good job.

Akiko: Well, you too!

Emily: Thanks!

Akiko: Yeah!

Emily: Yeah.


Emily: It still has brains on it.