2005 Preparators' Grant Recipient
Steven C. Wallace
Steven Wallace always had an interest in skeletal anatomy and entered college hoping to become a high school science teacher. The best route seemed to be a major in comprehensive science, which meant majoring in two sciences and minoring in two others. One of the majors (of course) was geology. Even at the intro level, geology fascinated him, and he quickly changed majors. However, it was not until his junior year and that it finally clicked..Paleontology combined both his fascination with skeletal anatomy, and his new interest in geology.
With his BS in geology, Wallace moved to Fort Hays, Kansas to work on a MS under Dr. Richard Zakrzewski. There he described a late Miocene terrestrial fauna in western Kansas. Because the taxa consisted mostly of mega-mammals, Wallace hoped to gain some experience in micro-mammals, hence his choice to work on a PhD under Dr. Holmes Semken at the University of Iowa. Unfortunately, this meant that his MS work was pushed aside (unpublished) as he shifted gears to work in the Pleistocene.
Needless to say, Wallace is probably best known for his dissertation work on the Pleistocene voles, which included the utilization of schmelzmuster (enamel microstructure) and morphometrics to identify species specific characters within the genus Microtus. Although much of this work has been published, and holds promise for refinement/expansion, Wallace's recent appointment at East Tennessee State University (ETSU) has again changed his focus to something new (yet familiar).
In 2001 (just after his graduation from the University of Iowa), Wallace was hired to oversee the excavations at the newly discovered (late Miocene) Gray Fossil Site in NE Tennessee. Back in the Miocene, Wallace began vigorous excavations at the site hoping to find similarities that would allow him to revisit his unpublished work from Kansas. Instead, what he found was a very unique site that is proving to be far more interesting and significant than he had originally anticipated.
The treasure trove of material from Gray (including a new species of red panda and Eurasian badger) prompted Wallace to immediately pursue funding. Fortunately, he discovered that the state of Tennessee has federal "flow-through" money available for projects involving the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT). These Enhancement grants are traditionally given to build rest stops and welcoming centers, but because the site was originally discovered during TDOT road work on state highway 75, Wallace thought that it was worth a try.
The proposal was to create a visitor's center (and museum) "on site" to qualify for the funding. Essentially, a welcoming center just off of the interstate, yet considered part of the ETSU campus. TDOT liked the idea, so the proposal was further refined to include a museum that was "function." This meant the inclusion of preparation space, storage space, offices, classrooms.everything needed to make center a productive (and efficient) research facility. Again, TDOT approved, so the proposal was expanded further to include staffing (field crew, post docs, etc.) through the life of the grant. The argument being: "What good is a fossil museum if it is empty"
This is where Jeff Supplee came into play. Jeff started off as a volunteer at the site, but quickly showed his skills as an excellent (yet untrained) preparator. Fortunately, the staffing opportunities of the TDOT Enhancement grant provided a way to reward Jeff's efforts by hiring as our full-time preparator. With his position secure, the SVP Preparators' Grant was the next logical step. With this training, Jeff will quickly become an invaluable member of the Gray research team.
Photo courtesy of Steven C. Wallace.