Visiting the Cooper Center

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Last Thursday I had my first opportunity to visit The Cooper Center, Orange County’s primary repository for paleontological and archaeological remains (WSC performs a similar role for Riverside County). The Cooper Center recently hosted the Prehistoric OC festival, but things had settled down enough for paleontology curator Meredith Riven to show me around the collections.
The Cooper Center’s collections are vast, and are the result of many decades of collection by many different professional and amateur paleontologists as well as by various mitigation companies. As might be expected with such a large collection amassed over many years by different sources, much of the material is in need of cataloging, preparation, and rehousing. Fortunately, the National Science Foundation has a program to address such issues, and the Cooper Center recently received a collections improvement grant to help with this monumental task.

IMG_0826.JPG Note the earthquake restraints, something I didn’t have to bother with in Virginia!

A lot of the Cooper Center specimens represent marine animals, including this huge partial whale skeleton:

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A tiny, rather enigmatic skull of a baleen whale:

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Meredith and I also spent part of the day at California State, Fullerton to meet with Jim Parham and Gabe Santos. Many of the CS Fullerton paleontology students work on Cooper Center specimens, and there’s currently an impressive exhibit at the campus library about Orange County fossils and student research on them:

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Thanks to Meredith, Jim, and Gabe for spending the day teaching me about Orange County fossils (and also to Jim for providing dark glass so I could see the solar eclipse)!

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