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William Simpson

Collections Manager III

Collections Center
Collection Management
Paleontology

Bill Simpson is trained as a mammalian paleontologist and is in charge of all the fossil vertebrate collections.

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

My love of paleontology started when I was a kid.  Dinosaur books and models got me interested, a visit to the Field Museum when I was eight sealed my fate! 

My undergraduate degree is in zoology and my graduate work is in vertebrate paleontology and geology.  I studied 30 million year-old fossil mammals from a geologically complex portion of the Badlands in South Dakota.  For this research I collected hundreds of fossil mammals which, like any fossil, needed the rock adhering to them removed before they could be studied.  Because I did most of this lab work myself I got pretty good at “preparation".

In 1979 I took a three-year job at Field Museum preparing fossil vertebrates.  This job turned into a permanent position managing the labs.  Ten years later I was given the additional job of managing the vertebrate paleontology research collections – the library of already prepared fossils. 

In 1998 - 2000 I supervised the laboratory phase of the SUE project.  After SUE, as our department grew, I switched away from lab work and focused all my time managing the vertebrate paleo research collections. 

I often get to participate in collecting trips.  These have ranged from looking for fossil mammals in Chile, looking for dinosaurs in sub-Saharan Africa, looking for reptiles and mammal-like reptiles in Madagascar and Tanzania, to looking for dinosaurs in Utah.  I have spent the most time (seven trips) in Madagascar,  six trips to collect fossils, and one to teach lab methods at a university there.  Lately I've been privileged to work with Pete Makovicky's crew in the Early Cretaceous of the San Rafael Swell in Utah

 

NON-MUSEUM ACTIVITIES

 

Recent Blog Posts

Additional Information

Education

1971 to 1975 - Western Illinois University;  Bachelor of Science, Zoology

1976 to 1979 - South Dakota School of Mines & Technology; coursework completed for Master of Science in Vertebrate Paleontology, 3 summers spent in fieldwork, Masters Thesis published:

1985.  WILLIAM F. SIMPSON, "Geology and Paleontology of the Oligocene Harris Ranch Badlands, Southwestern South Dakota".  In: J. E. Martin (ed.) “Fossiliferous Cenozoic Deposits of Western South Dakota and Northwestern Nebraska”, Dakoterra, 2(2):303-333

 

Interests

  • Vertebrate paleontology
  • Fossil vertebrate collections care
  • Vertebrate fossil preparation

 

Work experience

  • 1990 - present:  Collections Manager of Fossil Vertebrates, Department of Geology, Field Museum of Natural History
  • 1982 - 2000:      Chief Preparator of Fossil Vertebrates, Department of Geology, Field Museum of Natural History

  • 1979 - 1982:      Preparator of Fossil Vertebrates, Department of Geology, Field Museum of Natural History

  • 1977 - 1979:   Teaching Assistant, Department of Biology, South Dakota School of Mines and Technology

  • 1976 - 1977:    Research Assistant in vertebrate paleontology, Museum of Geology, South Dakota School of Mines and Technology

     

Accomplishments

FIELD WORK:

2010 - Field Museum of Natural History ("FMNH") expedition led by Pete Makovicky: collecting Early Cretaceous dinosaurs from the Mussentuchit Member of the Cedar Mountain Formation, Utah

2009 - FMNH expedition led by Pete Makovicky:  collecting Early Cretaceous dinosaurs from the Mussentuchit Member of the Cedar Mountain Formation, Utah

2008 - FMNH expedition led by Ken Angielczyk: collecting Late Permian/Early Triassic synapsids & reptiles from the Ruhuhu Basin, Tanzania

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2004 - FMNH expedition led by John Flynn: collecting Cenozoic mammals & amphibians from the Altiplano, Chilean Andes

2003 - FMNH expedition led by John Flynn: collecting Triassic & Jurassic synapsids & reptiles from the Morondava Basin and other localities, Madagascar

2000 - FMNH expedition led by John Flynn: collecting Triassic & Jurassic synapsids & reptiles from the Morondava Basin Madagascar

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1999 - FMNH expedition led by John Flynn: collecting Triassic & Jurassic synapsids & reptiles from the Morondava Basin Madagascar

1998 - FMNH expedition led by John Flynn: collecting Triassic & Jurassic synapsids & reptiles from the Morondava Basin Madagascar

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1997 - FMNH expedition led by John Flynn: collecting Triassic & Jurassic synapsids & reptiles from the Morondava Basin Madagascar

1997 - FMNH expedition led by John Flynn: collecting Cenozoic mammals from the Central Chilean Andes

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1996 - FMNH expedition led by John Flynn: collecting Triassic & Jurassic vertebrates from the Morondava Basin Madagascar

1995 - FMNH expedition led by John Flynn: collecting Eocene vertebrates from the Green River Formation of Southwestern Wyoming

1993 - University of Chicago Expedition led by Paul Sereno: collecting Dinosaurs from the Cretaceous of Niger, Sub-Saharan West Africa

1993 - FMNH expedition led by John Flynn: collecting fossil mammals from the Eocene and Oligocene of the Central Chilean Andes

1983 - FMNH expedition led by Bill Simpson:  collecting fossil mammals in a Pleistocene cave in Illinois

1979 to 1989 - FMNH expeditions led by John Bolt: collecting fossil reptiles and amphibians in:  Triassic of Arizona, New Mexico; Mississippian of Iowa; Permian of Oklahoma

1976 to 1979 - South Dakota School of Mines & Technology ("SDSM&T") expeditions led by Bill Simpson: collecting Oligocene mammals at Harris Ranch Badlands, SW South Dakota 

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1976 to 1979 - SDSM&T fieldwork and fieldtrips led by Phil Bjork: collecting fossil mammals in South Dakota, Nebraska, Colorado, & Wyoming; & dinosaurs in Wyoming & South Dakota

 

PUBLICATIONS AND PRESENTATIONS

2010. WILLIAM F. SIMPSON, Moderator for "Symposium on Preparation of Fossil Vertebrates", at the 70th annual meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History

2010. WILLIAM F. SIMPSON (presenter) & Peter J. Makovicky, Building a 3D Virtual Model of a Mounted Tyrannosaurus.   3rd Annual Fossil Preparation & Collections Symposium, at the Field Museum of Natural  History

2000.  Flynn, J., Parrish, M., Rakotosamimanana, B., Ranivoharimanana, L., SIMPSON, W., Wyss, A.,  "New traversodontids (Synapsida: Eucynodontia) from the Triassic of Madagascar”, Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology (Rapid Communications), v. 20, no. 3, p. 422-427

1999.  Flynn, J., Parrish, M., Rakotosamimanana, B., SIMPSON, W., Whatley, R., Wyss, A.,  "A Triassic fauna from Madagascar, including early dinosaurs”, Science, v. 286, p. 763-765

1999.  Flynn, J., Parrish, M., Rakotosamimanana, B., SIMPSON, W., Wyss, A.,  "A Middle Jurasssic mammal from Madagascar”, Nature, v. 401, p. 57-60

1997. WILLIAM F. SIMPSON, Organizer and Moderator for "Symposium on Preparation of Fossil Vertebrates", at the 57th annual meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology at the Field Museum of Natural History

1997.  Steven M. McCarroll  & WILLIAMF. SIMPSON, "Lost Fossil Method", abstract of talk presented for "Symposium on Preparation of Fossil Vertebrates",  at the 57th annual meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology at the Field Museum of Natural History

1997.  Flynn, J., Parrish, M., Wyss, A., SIMPSON, W., Razafimanantsoa, L., Andriatompohavana R., Totovolahy, A.  "New Triassic and Jurassic vertebrates from Madagascar”, abstract of talk presented at the 57th annual meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology at the Field Museum of Natural History

1996.  WILLIAM F. SIMPSON, "Renovating Riggs' Laboratories: Modernization of the Vertebrate Paleontology Preparation Labs at Field Museum", abstract of talk presented at the 56th annual meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History, New York, New York

1985.  WILLIAM F. SIMPSON, "Epoxy casts from natural molds", talk presented at the 45th annual meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City, South Dakota

1985.  WILLIAM F. SIMPSON, "Geology and Paleontology of the Oligocene Harris Ranch Badlands, Southwestern South Dakota".  In: J. E. Martin (ed.) “Fossiliferous Cenozoic Deposits of Western South Dakota and Northwestern Nebraska”, Dakoterra, 2(2):303-333

 

Other PROFESSIONAL ACTIVITIES

2010 to current - Co-Chairman, Preparators' Committee, Society of Vertebrate Paleontology

2001 to 2005 - Chairman, Preparators’ Award Committee,  Society of Vertebrate Paleontology

1990 - Set up laboratory and taught Vertebrate Paleontology Laboratory Methods for 24 graduate students at University of Antananarivo, Madagascar

1981 -  Co-instructor, FMNH adult education course, "Vertebrates of the Past"

         Ongoing:

Present public lectures at FMNH and at other venues on vertebrate paleontology; science, lab and collections methods – For example:

2001    Presented lecture on SUE at Midwest Area Paleontological Expo

2001   Presented lecture on SUE at Illinois State Science Teachers Association Annual Meeting

 

FREE-LANCE WORK

2004 to present - Preparation/molding/casting of Miocene fossils for James Farlow, Purdue University

2002 -  Molding and casting of two femora of extinct lemurs, for Anne Yoder, Yale University

2001 - Consultant on design of proposed vertebrate paleontology laboratory in exhibit space at Childrens’ Museum of Indianapolis

2001 - Molding and casting of large Pennsylvanian shark, Orodus greggi, for Indiana State Museum of Natural History

1996-97 -  Repair  damage to skull & jaws of Cretaceous mammal from Mongolia, Bulganbaatar nemegtbaatoides, for Dr. Paul C. Sereno, University of Chicago

1991 to 1995 - Fine preparation of Triassic dinosaur, Eoraptor,  from Argentina, for Dr. Paul C. Sereno, University of Chicago

1990 - Fine preparation of Jurassic bird , Sinornis,  from China, for Dr. Paul C. Sereno, University of Chicago

1990 -  Molding & casting skull of Triassic dinosaur, Herrerasaurus, from Argentina, for Dr. Paul C. Sereno, University of Chicago

1989 to 1990 - Molding & casting skeleton of twelve-foot crocodile from the Green River Fm., Wyoming, for U. S. National Park Service, Fossil Butte National Monument

1989 -  Fine preparation of pelvis of Triassic dinosaur, Lagosuchus, from Argentina, for Dr. Paul C. Sereno, University of Chicago 

1985 - Molding & casting sacrum, appendicular skeleton of a Cretaceous turtle,  Naomichelys, for Dr. Eugene S. Gaffney, American Museum of Natural History

Professional affiliations

  • Society of Vertebrate Paleontology 
  • Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections