By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
"The material we're dealing with -- human tissue -- is a relatively poor material for holding information. So it's a challenge, because as soon as you die, you're on a pretty steep slope toward decomposition. Your chemical information is changing, and your physical information is changing rapidly. So the whole challenge is to get to that information as soon as possible, document and preserve it as soon as possible, and then try to make some sort of comparison.
"I move about the world with an awareness, but not a paranoia. I don't have bars on my windows. I don't have pepper spray. You realize that at any given time you're walking past people who have no idea that they will end up at the Coroner's Office. It gives you a sense that life is pretty precious and to get the most out of it because you really don't know when you're going to be on the daily list, as they say here. The bottom line is that we're engaged in this dance in order to not go with our dark side. We're struggling with that on a daily basis in society. To some degree, people don't go to the dark side because they're afraid of getting caught. And if it has to be that we're only being good because we might get caught, well, I guess that's a start."
Rocket Girl DR. ROSALY LOPES, astronomer/volcanologist at JPL/NASA, also worked as a science coordinator on the Galileo Flight Project, and was responsible for planning observations of volcanic activity on Io
"I used to dream of being a scientist and working for NASA when I was a little girl. Now I study volcanoes on Earth and volcanoes on the planets. I came to JPL and to the United States via Italy and England, and originally I'm from Brazil. I really wanted to be involved in the exploration of planets, and JPL is just the best place to be for that. And here, rather than just study what the missions bring down to Earth, we actually plan them. Sometimes I drive up and I look at the gate -- Jet Propulsion Laboratory -- and I think to myself, 'Wow, I'm really working here!' Even after more than 10 years the excitement really hasn't worn off. My friends are very interested in what I do -- they call me 'Rocket Girl.' But sometimes they're quite surprised. When I worked on Galileo, just seeing the observations for the first time and finding new volcanoes that no one knew about before, it was a real thrill. But I still feel a need to go to volcanoes on Earth, now and then, even if I'm not actually doing it for science. I'll take a vacation and go to a volcano. I just can't stay away from them for very long."
Species Hunter LAWRENCE G. BARNES, Ph.D., curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Natural History Museum or Los Angeles County, specializing in fossilized marine mammals such as whales, dolphins and sea lions
"Growing up in L.A., I was collecting fossilized marine mammals as a student in high school. They were around here; they were local. That's part of the story -- telling what was here in the past, and then relating it to what's here now. I was hired here [at the Natural History Museum] because they wanted somebody to work on fossilized marine mammals, which are abundant on the west coast of North America, in Southern California and in the Los Angeles basin. If you're going to work on fossilized marine mammals, basically it's L.A. or Washington, D.C. I've been [at the museum] a little over 30 years now.
"Part of the thrill of this business is finding something that nobody ever knew about and therefore getting to name a new species. I've had a pretty good run of it. Probably, I'd guess, I'm pushing about 40 new species right now, with a lot more still to go. I named one animal Kolponomos newportenss. These are related to primitive bears that lived on the shoreline, and they probably were clam-crunchers, which means they probably ate shells, mollusks, things like that that live on rocks. So I called them 'beach bears.' Nobody had ever coined that term before. In fact, I've named all but one of the known animals in this group.
"Every week it seems there are new things. A bone that I have on the shelf was shown to me yesterday -- I don't know what it is. And there's a skull sitting next to the flowerpot, which is the best skull of a ground sloth, a Shasta ground sloth, ever found in Southern California, outside of Rancho La Brea. It was found in Chino Hills.
"When the museum was responsible for saving all the fossils that were being turned up by construction activities in Southern California, I was in the field sometimes two, three, four, five days a week, even seven days a week. Now I'm in the field probably eight or 10 days a year. A lot of it is because, one, I'm older and doing other things. Two, a lot of the people who were students and associates of my museum are now working for environmental-assessment companies that go out and actually collect the fossils. Because of things like the Environmental Protection Act, the California Equality Act of 1972 and the National Environmental Policy Act of 1973, a lot of the counties and cities, and state and federal organizations, require the salvage of fossils and other items of antiquity during construction. So there are probably 200 people in the California area doing that work every day of the week."