The phrase “one of the top minds in carnivore paleontology” makes me strangely happy

“… she [paleontologist Elaine Anderson] withdrew an object wrapped in white tissue, and she unraveled it slowly. It was the jaw of a ferret, excellent condition. When she handed it to me, she smiled deeply. The carnassial teeth were still sharp to the touch, lined up in the fashion of a mountain ridge, jags and valleys.

“She was the carnivore woman. Among specialists in the world, she was one of the top minds in carnivore paleontology … When she talked about other caves, ones producing few carnivore remains, she said, ‘It was awful, all those rodents,’ and she nearly pouted. She taught bear and wolf classes in Yellowstone each summer and mammalian osteology in Colorado.

“Elaine had a gentle voice that would quiet you from a mad panic. Everything was handled with care. Give her a tooth, a rodent tooth, and although she had no strong interest in rodents, she would lift it with two fingers and place it the proper distance from her eyes. In time she would smile as if she had found something new. ‘Yes. A marmot incisor. The upper ,’ she would say. I would have expected a woman of this experience to have done it by feel, not taking attention from the work at hand, making a quick pinch and flatly identifying it. But Elaine had time for everything, even rodent teeth. She was not a busy, painful scientist. She would lift the smallest fragment, an eighth of an inch long, and identify it perfectly. It would be, perhaps, the broken ulna of a juvenile porcupine. She would know. Each of this cave’s seven thousand cataloged speciments, with a single number sometimes given to a hundred limb bones, passed through her hands.”

–Craig Childs, The Animal Dialogues

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