Storage Room 2 Team: Daniel Ksepka

Greetings to all from Storage Room 2. My name is Daniel Ksepka, and I joined the Bruce Museum in June as Curator of Science. This is my first post to our collaborative blog, so it may be best to start with a brief introduction. Museums have always been my favorite places, and as a lover of birds (fossil and living), natural history collections feel like my own personal natural habitat. Before arriving at the Bruce, I completed my Bachelor's Degree at Rutgers University where I spent much time at the wonderful and eclectic Geology Museum (home of mastodons, mummies, and minerals). Later, I earned a PhD through Columbia University's joint program with the American Museum of Natural History.

As Curator of Science at the Bruce Museum, I spent much time in our blog's namesake, Storage Room 2. My responsibilities include collecting data from our remarkable natural history collections, acquiring new specimens, arranging for their long-term conservation, and organizing their use in exhibitions. Over the next few months, I hope to share some of the interesting stories behind our collections and a bit of behind-the-scenes content as we prepare the coming seasons science exhibitions.

 Daniel Ksepka studying the fossil skull of  Pelagornis sandersi , the largest known flying bird.

Daniel Ksepka studying the fossil skull of Pelagornis sandersi, the largest known flying bird.

Avian evolution is my research passion, and I am particularly interested in using fossils to understand evolutionary transitions, biogeography, and patterns of extinction and radiation. A major part of my work focuses on the fossil record of penguins. Penguins have become vastly different from "normal" birds as they adapted to a secondarily aquatic lifestyle. Fortunately, these remarkable birds have a deep, rich fossil record extending back over 60 million years and spanning four continents that can help us piece this transition back together. Fossil discoveries have revealed many extinct species, such as the giant penguin Kairuku waitaki shown below, the spear-billed Icadyptes salasi and the red and grey feather cloaked Inkayacu paracasensis. My work has brought me to South America, Africa, and New Zealand searching for fossil clues to reconstructing the early evolutionary history of penguins. From time to time, I will cross-post articles at my penguin research blog March of the Fossil Penguins. Of course, the Bruce Museum collections would not be complete without a penguin, and I'' shift into the present day to document the adventures of one special specimen this winter.

  Kairuku waitaki,  and extinct giant penguin from New Zealand. Artwork by Chris Gaskin, copyright University of Otago Geology Museum.

Kairuku waitaki, and extinct giant penguin from New Zealand. Artwork by Chris Gaskin, copyright University of Otago Geology Museum.