You’ve probably passed it the dozens of times you were anywhere near Queens College and Kirkpatrick Chapel. The Rutgers Geology Museum is one of the oldest collegiate geology museums in the country. I Am Rutgers attended ‘Minerals Late Night’, a monthly event that aims to teach guests about powerful minerals through demonstrations, arts and crafts, and other educational activities.
Filled with unique exhibits and collections, the geology museum isn’t something you’d want to miss. When you first walk in, you are greeted by a massive mastodon, an extinct species distantly related to elephants. Upon speaking to Lauren Adamo, one of the museum’s Associate Directors, I learned that George H. Cook (yes, the same one that Cook campus is named after), purchased the mastodon for the Geology Museum, and it has been here since 1896.
The museum itself, and their events are facilitated by student volunteers and students in the work study program, according to Lauren.
Volunteers can be undergrads or graduate students, and we work with them to figure out a project that suits their interests. That could consist of hosting tours, designing a collection, or designing a hands-on exhibit for one of our events. We’ve had undergrads and grad students who have done projects and internships and have gone on to get internships at the American Museum of Natural History or used it to get into a graduate program.”
Sarah Rieger, a senior majoring in psychology, works part-time at the Geology Museum as a tour guide, designing certain displays and lending a hand to any other projects the directors are working on.
I’m the official tour guide, so I host all of the tours for the students that come in. We do them for classrooms, for families, things like that. Being a tour guide is actually really fun. You get to see all the different dynamics of the various classes that come in.”
Aside from having various exhibits and collections, the museum hosts a number of events, whether it is a birthday party, a paint along or even a wedding. Associate Director Patricia Irizarry, told me all about the wedding, which included putting a big red bow on the Mastodon.
They wanted to get married right in front of the Mastodon. Instead of having rings, they had geodes, which are like hallow crystals that you crack open, and contain crystals inside them. I think they just like geology a lot.”
The museum welcomes students of all majors, and ensures that students get to work on projects that they are passionate about or projects that will help further their future careers. Glendy Soriano, a Visual Arts major, leads paint- along sessions that help younger students create crafts based on natural history. Utilizing her passion for art, Glendy helps students unleash their inner Picassos through paint-alongs.
As mentioned earlier, graduate students are more than welcome to volunteer at the museum. Fellowship students, Jake Setera and Patrick Flanagan, were working the mineral table, teaching attendees about what kind of minerals are in certain products, like toothpaste. Jake is a Ph.D student who works with the museum on outreach, and strives to educate people about the importance of his own research.
Part of my role in outreach is making people aware of general science and why it’s important, and getting them excited about it. The museum functions as a mechanism for me to do outreach.”
Categorized as a natural science, geology actually overlaps with many other scientific fields, such as oceanography. Patrick, a graduate student pursuing his Master’s Degree, explains why marine geologists are significant.
Marine geologists are really important because we’re still figuring out how the Earth is made. Marine geologists often go out into the ocean and take samples by drilling sections of earth out and looking at where the stones came from, how old they are, how they were formed. The tectonic plates move around and a lot of that is driven by new land being formed under the ocean and pushing things around. That’s another aspect of geology.”
The museum works to make people aware of the significance of geology by opening their doors to all members of the surrounding community. Some of the more notable exhibits include the mastodon, a ptolemaic era Egyptian mummy and the 11-foot-wide exoskeleton of a giant spider crab from Japan pictured below. The spider crab was given to Rutgers as a gift from Japan after they sent several students here in the 1800s to receive a Western education.
Located on 85 Somerset Street on the second floor of Geology Hall on College Avenue, the Rutgers Geology Museum provides a uniquely comprehensive way of incorporating geology into the lives of the New Brunswick community. If you’re ever near Queens College, you should definitely visit! Check out their website and Facebook page to find out more about volunteering there and/or attending one of their many upcoming events.