Last October, the Museum of Geology welcomed our new Assistant Director, Danielle Serratos. Danielle was hired to supervise the museum’s exhibit floor and our continuous cadre of student employees tasked with managing the displays and informing our visitors.
Danielle grew up in the small town of Rendon, TX, just south of Dallas-Fort Worth. Danielle cherishes her “best of both worlds” upbringing, combining the small rural community of Rendon with the immediately available urban hub of Dallas.
Danielle received her BS in Geology from Texas A&M University Corpus Christi. She then went to receive her Master’s degree from the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, where she studied the taxonomy and phylogeny of a unique specimen of elasmosaur from the Bearpaw Shale of Montana. Her interest in marine reptiles is part of what brought her to the Black Hills.
Danielle’s introduction to the program at Fairbanks has an interesting SD Mines connection. In 2010, while an undergraduate, Danielle attended a field camp in the Pierre Shale of South Dakota with former museum curator Jim Martin. Danielle expressed an interest in plesiosaurs, to which Jim suggested she read some of the work being done by Pat Druckenmiller at Fairbanks. Danielle liked what she read, applied, and was accepted to the program. The day before leaving she married her husband Carlos, a marine biologist, and they spent their honeymoon on the long overland trek to the Last Frontier.
Danielle’s passion for fossils and marine reptiles started at TAMUCC. While she initially intended to focus on marine biology, she was drawn to the scientific mystery of marine reptiles. The complete lack of any modern analogs piqued her interest much more so than any existing organism. Fueled by collaboration with a local philanthropic organization that prepared fossils for donation to public schools, Danielle’s conversion to paleontology was gradual, but once hooked, she never looked back.
Danielle is also exceedingly enthusiastic about public outreach. She began this side of her career as a GK-12 graduate fellow at Fairbanks organizing the Discovery Science Expo for Kids. The event was held annually at Fort Wainwright near Fairbanks and showcased science exhibits for the general public from four University of Alaska departments, the Museum of the North, and the Fairbanks Children’s Museum.
Danielle is excited to be a part of the Museum of Geology team, particularly because access is freely available to the public. Additionally, she relishes the opportunity to train a diverse array of students to share their knowledge of geology with the community. She feels the ability to communicate science to everyone, not just the scientific community, is imperative for public acceptance of the value of research and science literacy. Danielle is also prepared for the challenges she faces in her role as Assistant Director, especially those that involve making the museum appealing to a broader audience. The specimens on display at the museum are not likely to change much, but their presentation and the information they provide can be adjusted to speak to a broader range of visitors with varying levels of education and cultural backgrounds.
When asked about her favorite fossil, Danielle identified the gorgeous skull of the plesiosaur Libonectes morgani (Welles 1949). This specimen from the Eagle Ford Shale of Texas is the only uncrushed plesiosaur skull in the world, even containing a complete set of sclerotic ossicles. The specimen was discovered by a local farmer near Cedar Hill, Texas, named T.W. Tidwell while in residence on the Andy Anderson plantation. Mr. Anderson, upon donating the specimen to Southern Methodist University, made one simple stipulation that I’m sure Danielle would most emphatically approve of, “Write about it so common folks can understand.” (Shuler, 1950; p. 3).
Welles, SP. 1949. A New Elasmosaur from the Eagle Ford Shale of Texas. Part I: Systematic Description. Fondren Science Series. 1:1-30
Schuler, EW. 1950. Part II: The Elasmosaur and Its Environment. Fondren Science Series. 1:1-32