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Meet a Paleontologist
Robert B. Blodgett and Pam Sousanes (of the National Park Service) collecting Early Devonian fossils in Shellabarger Pass, Denali National Park & Preserve, south-central Alaska.
Robert B. Blodgett working on his notes during field work in the Klamath Mountains of northern California.
Robert B. Blodgett
NFD Kid's Page Interview...
What is your job, and what do you study?
I work as a both a paleontologist and geologist studying Paleozoic and Mesozoic age rocks and their contained fossil marine invertebrate faunas in Alaska, the western U.S., and Mexico. My consulting work is done for various Federal agencies (i.e. National Park Service, U.S. Geological Survey), State Geological Surveys and industry (primarily oil companies).
What are you working on now?
I am presently involved in several projects at this time. My primary current focus is on trying to undertake a detailed biostratigraphic, lithostratigraphic, and paleoecologic study of the Middle and Upper Triassic Shublik Formation and Sag River Sandstone of the North Slope of Alaska. Most of this work is based on the analysis of numerous cored sections from exploratory wells made by the oil industry in northern Alaska. Other current work involves on-going work with the National Park Service on Alaskan national parks and the editing of a memorial volume dedicated to the memory of Mena Schemm-Gregory (a German specialist on brachiopods).
Where did you go to school? What were some of your favorite classes that you took?
I completed both my B.S. and M.S. degrees at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks, followed by a Ph.D. degree at Oregon State University in Corvallis (where I was a student of Art Boucot). My favorite classes involved those dealing with the study of fossils and stratigraphy. Subsequent post-doctoral work was done in Göttingen, Germany on a grant from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. Afterwards I worked for the Branch of Paleontology & Stratigraphy of the U.S. Geological Survey until the unfortunate demise of that unit in 1995.
Was there an experience you had that made you realize you wanted to be a paleontologist?
No specific experience sticks out in my memory, but I came to a realization as an undergraduate student that the study of fossils was among my favorite areas of study.
What is your most memorable experience working with fossils?
Actually many experiences working in the underexplored sedimentary basins in Alaska (I am often the first paleontologist to have visited many of these areas) have made my career remain exciting even till today. I eagerly await each new summer field season (we only get 6 months at best a year to work this far North) to experience new adventures in paleontology and stratigraphy.
Do you have any advice for aspiring paleontologists?
Take as much classes as you can in Geology (especially Paleontology, Stratigraphy, and Sedimentology) and Biology. I also encourage people to be able to read scientific works in as many languages as possible (I must use Russian, German, and Spanish in my taxonomic studies on a daily basis). Another component in becoming a successful young paleontologist is taking advantage of any opportunities to go into the field to see outcrops and fossil collections of various geological ages. Try to establish collegial contacts with paleontologists both nationally and internationally.