Today: Alex Hastings, who is the paleontology curator at the Science Museum of Minnesota. He was in the same role as an assistant curator at the Virginia Museum of Natural History before joining the museum in August 2018.
I’m always reading up on the latest paleontology discoveries in a variety of scientific journals. For the last several years, there has been a new species of dinosaur described about once a week. Add to that a multitude of other ancient creatures, and it can be a lot. Still, it’s a lot of fun, and helps me make sure that my own research is up to date.
I’m also a comic nerd at heart. I keep up with the big events that have happened lately in “Superman” by Brian Michael Bendis and Ivan Reis. I was really happy to have worked on an outreach project I called “Comic Books and Dinosaurs” that focused on teaching the science of paleontology through the comic book medium. Now whenever I pick up one with a dinosaur, it can legitimately be called research. Amazing.
I follow a lot of other paleontologists and science communicators on Twitter. I’ve been particularly impressed with active folks like the husband-wife team Ashley Hall (@LadyNaturalist) and Lee Hall (@paleeoguy). If anyone wants to see what I’m doing, I’m @Dr_CrocoGator on Twitter and Instagram.
Probably not surprising, but I’m always game for any of the comic-based properties like CW’s Arrow, the Flash, Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow. I am always a sucker for a good David Attenborough documentary from BBC, too. Sometimes they make you sad, but you always see something incredible and learn a lot.
I love being out in nature as much as I can, and I love keeping an eye out for wildlife. Even common animals like squirrels can be really fascinating and do surprising things. I also love that I can be driving down the road near the river and see a bald eagle scavenging amid a group of crows. That’s just really cool.
I am a big podcast listener. Some are done by paleontology friends of mine like Ryan Haupt and friends: “Science ... sort of.” Their show does a great job of taking technical science and making it understandable (and fun). I regularly listen to “I Know Dino,” which delves into dinosaur news and has interviews with paleontologists. I’ve been impressed with the hosts’ knowledge and communication skill, especially because neither was formally trained. I also listen to Marvel’s suite of podcasts like “This Week in Marvel” and “Marvel Pull List.”
Being relatively new to Minnesota, I definitely have liked using my state parks pass a lot. There are so many cool places to get out and hike around, and there’s a lot still to explore. Hawk Ridge in Duluth was a rare treat this fall during the raptor migration.
One of the things I love about my job at the museum is the field work. Just a couple weeks ago I was down in a cave in southern Minnesota looking for bones in an underground stream. I’ve been getting more and more experience with the ropes techniques needed to explore difficult caves, so I can see fossil sites that very few people have ever seen. This summer I’ll be doing two dinosaur digs (Wyoming and Montana) as well as keeping up with field work near New Ulm.