This week is Gretchen's first dig with the Museum, and she says learning to find fossils is "like downloading something into a computer. You have to get your 'search image' set, so you know what you're looking for. At first, it's impossible to distinguish the fossils from the plain old rocks, but then all of the sudden it's like 'There's one!' and 'There's one!' and 'There's one!'"
As a child, Gretchen was inspired by her father's "rock hound" best friend. She became an enthusiastic California camper and rock lover - she even started her high school's geology club.
She turned that enthusiasm into a Master's degree in geology, and she worked at ExxonMobil for 13 years. After raising her family, she started volunteering at the Houston Museum of Natural Science as a way to get back into geology. That was over six years ago. Since, she's become an integral part of the volunteer team, leading student tours of the exhibit halls, teacher workshops, and tours of the Wiess Energy Hall and special exhibitions, including Lucy's Legacy; being a "Docent to Go;" and manning the touch carts that allow visitors to get "hands-on" with the Museum's exhibitions.
"Digging is like getting back to your roots. I like looking at the details - the small picture, layer by layer. And it's geology - so it's cool."