Yale Peabody Museum Summer Internships

Revisiting Ancient Reefs in the Glass Mountains, Texas

Advisor: Susan Butts (Senior Collections Manager, YPM Division of Invertebrate Paleontology)


Length: 8 weeks in the summer


Project Description:

Around 270 million years ago, west Texas was near the equator and covered by a sea fringed with reefs. These tropical reefs were built not by corals, but by brachiopods and sponges, some with forms very different from anything seen before or after in geologic time. This area was collected in the 1930-60s by Yale scientists and this amazing material has been included in many taxonomic studies. This area has been off limits for the last 70 years, but because of recent work by scientists at Texas A&M University with ties to the Yale Peabody Museum nearly 250,000 acres are now accessible for scientific study.


We will document outcrops and stratigraphic sections visited by past researchers and collect material to complement specimens already in our collections. Back at Yale, specimens will be etched in hydrochloric acid to remove the rock, leaving behind only the fossils, which have been replaced from their original calcite with silica (essentially, glass). Fossils will be isolated, identified, and carefully curated. These fossils will become the core of research related to the study of preservation of fossils in silica and the bias in the fossil record introduced by this type of preservation.


Field work will take place in May, 2020 (the week of May 11th). Be prepared for steep desert hiking at moderate elevations, measuring stratigraphic sections, and collecting large (heavy) rock samples (it’s fun!). No experience required. All skills will be taught.


Stipend: $3000