February 24, 2017
The first time I stepped into the lab of Nigel Hughes a couple of weeks ago, he asked me if I knew what a trilobite was. No, I did not know what a trilobite was. Of course, I had heard the name and I had seen pictures of them but that was the extent of my trilobite knowledge. I’ve since learned that trilobites are a fossil group of extinct arthropods that date back to the Cambrian period (over 500 million years ago!). The lab is full of them in all different sizes. The first thing I had noticed is that someone had given them names. Human names as in, “Meet Bob, the trilobite. And this is Bob’s neighbor, Sally.” I found that to be quite amusing and immediately had a good feeling about working in this particular lab.
My first assignment in the lab was to unpack bags of specimens that had been shipped back from the field work performed in Myanmar and place them into labeled drawers. As I was unpacking the specimens, I noticed that they all had tiny orange spots circled in marker. My untrained eye had no idea what I was supposed to be seeing in those circles until I was handed a magnifying lens. Then I was able to see tiny eyes on an orange spot. I was told that it was a trilobite. How were they able to find these tiny creatures and how did they know that they were looking at trilobites while out doing field work? These are some of my many questions that I hope to learn the answers to in coming weeks.