Technical Officer in Palaeontology
Carey Burke

The description ‘Technical Officer in Palaeontology’ – an occupation that is more commonly known as a ‘Fossil Preparator’ – means that I perform a wide array of tasks, the most prominent being the initial stabilising and cleaning of fossil material that will be properly identified and studied by palaeontologists. That job alone would be plenty enough to keep me occupied but I also am privileged to participate in field work to collect fossil material (including in some of the most remote areas I have ever been to) and assist staff and students with the fascinating diversity of projects back in the Lab.

I pride myself on being a useful member of the Palaeontology team, over the years developing a somewhat eclectic array of relevant skills and knowledge thanks to the extremely kinetic environment in which I work. I savour the opportunities to assist in development of techniques and protocols that allow us to approach the many challenges that Palaeontology brings. I consider each fossil site as having its own unique ‘personality’ that requires a different outlook and methodology that allow us to preserve the information that each specimen may retain.

Current projects include the preparation and preservation of megafaunal fossil material collected from Lake Callabonna and expanding the workspace/storage areas of the Palaeontology facilities. These tasks are set amid the consistent background hum of creating space and assisting staff and students on the myriad of projects that are on the go at any given time.

My personal interests are often tangentially related to aspects of my profession, and I have adopted a smattering of learned techniques into my hobbies. These include moulding and casting, embedding objects in resin and the painting/finishing of such items to make a sort of fusion between art and science. Recently, I have been tackling the logistics of smoothing and finishing 3D printed objects.

I am always on the lookout for new tools or knowledge that could be useful around the lab. In equal measure, the constant stream of discovery generated within the lab encourages me to retain my initial passion for natural history – the reason I became interested in Palaeontology in the first place.