Saturday, March 3, 2018

Interview with Paleontologist: Jason Poole

Jason C. Poole is a professor at Drexel University and the Dinosaur Hall Coordinator at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University. Jason has excavated dinosaurs on three continents, Africa, South and North America. Paralititan, Dreadnoughtus and Suuwassea are three dinosaurs worked on by Poole which are new to science, two of which are super massive titanosaurs. Jason can often be
found in the Academy of Natural Sciences Dinosaur Hall Fossil Lab preparing newly found fossils which will spend the rest of their afterlife in museum collections. Mr. Poole is also a Paleo Artist who has published in National Geographic and whose art work appears in many museum and private collections.

Question 1: Let’s start from the beginning.  What was your earliest sign of interest in paleontology that you can remember?   

JP: I collected modern bones and fossils as a kid.

Question 2: Did you have any professionals or family members who served as role models when you were younger?  Do you still have any now? 

JP: My folks loved to be outside when we had free time so I got my love of that from them. But I have to say that Dr. Peter Dodson was and still is a huge reason that I am still doing what I do.

Question 3: Was there anything you did or learned as you were on your way to your current career that you feel got you to where you are?  By this I mean any sort of field experience, a class, networking with the right people, or possibly something different or all three? 

JP: I surrounded myself with people who love science and the outdoors.

Question 4: Is the field of paleontology different now than from when you started as far as you can tell?  What would your advice be to anyone trying to make a career in paleontology (or science in general for that matter) now?  

JP: Now as always I recommend that students who want to become paleontologists become obsessed with science in general and new trends in what new tech can help to explain.

Question 5: What was or is your favorite project so far?  Would you be able to tell us about some of your current projects? 

JP: I love working on Jurassic dinosaurs with the Bighorn Basin Paleontology Institute and the Academy of Natural Sciences! This cooperation gives me the opportunity to educate about paleo in the field to students and volunteers in one of the most beautiful places in the world.   

Question 6: You have traveled to a lot of interesting places digging for dinosaurs.  Do you have a favorite destination when it comes to fossils?  Why? 

JP: I love Montana. My first dinosaur was from there.

Question 7: A popular image of paleontologists is that they are constantly out in the field digging up fossils, which is true to an extent.  What people don’t realize sometimes is that a lot of paleontology work is conducted in a lab as well.  In your experience, how much of your projects (in general) take place in the field, and how much are in the lab?  

JP: My job in Philly is as a preparator and teacher. So 10 months of the year are spent in lab.

Question 8: When it comes to your art, how often are you able to utilize it for paleontology?  

JP: Every day.  It is part of the way I communicate and take notes.

Question 9: What is your favorite medium to use when creating art?  Why?  

JP: Ball Point Pen. It travels well and gives a great line for sketching. 

Jason's reconstruction of the sauropod, Suuwassea.
Question 10: Do you ever get criticized on any of your work? How do you handle it?

JP: I am constantly criticized buy people, the harshest remarks are my own. It is how we grow as artists. Constant pushing and tweaking of our craft due to feedback from people and our own mistakes. I think I handle it well… I have not killed anyone yet.   

Question 11: One of my pet peeves is when people assume paleontology doesn’t really do any real good in the grand scheme of things and is just a “for fun” science.  Do you think paleontology has a bigger part to than this?  How?  

JP: You cannot know the future so you better know the past if you are going to make any informed plans for the future. Evolution and understanding how species react to natural pressures exerted by a changing world is key especially now when we should be looking to science to direct thinking about our future.

Question 12: Who was the first paleontologist you met?  How was that interaction?  

JP: Bill Gallagher. He is a great guy!

Question 13: What is your favorite prehistoric animal?  Was it different when you were younger?  

JP: Ceratosaurus. Nope.

Ceratosaurus skeleton on display at the National Museum in Washington, D.C.
Question 14: If you could use a time machine to go back and pick only one prehistoric animal to bring back from history and observe alive and in person, which would it be and why?  

JP: T. rex. T. rex gets so much attention and we think we know tones about it. I would love to see how far off we might be. I think it would be a great test of how far off we should expect to be off on other animals. Here is the rub though, When you take an animal out of its ecosystem or habitat you will not know how it naturally behaves.

Question 15: Which is your favorite museum? Why? The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel U. in Philadelphia.  

JP: We started this paleo thing in the Americas and we are still going. I am most excited for our future as a public museum and a research institution! Come see why.  

Question 16: What hobbies do you have?  (Don’t have to be paleo-related.)  

JP: Not a lot of time for hobbies. Love to build model kits and skateboard. Family fills most of the free time now.

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