Staff Spotlight: Kallie Moore

When Kallie Moore saw the job announcement for the UM Paleontology Collections Manager, she jumped at the chance to apply. The collection had caught her attention years before because it contains fossils from Montana's Bear Gulch Limestone - a 320 million year old layer that preserves marine fish, sharks, and a slew of invertebrates. This ancient ecological community was similar to one found at an older fossil site she had worked on in Kansas called the Hamilton Quarry. Plus, she had spent part of two summers working as a field assistant in the Hell Creek Formation of eastern Montana.

“Montana was at the top of my list of places to continue my career after graduation,” Moore said. The opportunity arose when, “I was in a course at Emporia State University (in Kansas) called ‘Geowriting and Geoliterature,’ a class to help students read and write specifically for geosciences. Part of the class was to do a mock application process that included creating a resume and writing cover letters. We used old editions of Earth Magazine that had job announcements listed in the back. I ended up getting a fairly recent copy of the magazine and found the description for the Collections Manager of the University of Montana Paleontology Center. I immediately told my professor I wanted to legitimately apply for the job, but I only had about a month before the deadline. I spent almost every waking hour working with my professor to get my resume and cover letter ready.”

Fast forward only a few months and a whirlwind of activities that included doing a phone interview, cramming for finals to be able to make a trip from Kansas to Montana for an in-person interview, finishing a senior thesis and graduating, receiving the job offer, and finally Moore packing up and moving to Missoula to be the Collections Manager. Moore quickly became immersed in the collection, which she describes as “small but mighty!”

Moore stated, “One of the reasons I wanted to work in this collection is because it spans over two billion years of Earth's history, contains specimens from over 20 different countries, and includes everything from microfossils to large megafauna. As a person who wanted to study everything about the ancient past, this was the type of collection that has allowed me to do just that. Being the Collections Manager has also helped me to develop my science communicating skills. For the past 10+ years, I've been giving tours to K-12 school groups, community members, and UM students. This is one of my favorite aspects of my job – interacting with the public and sharing my enthusiasm for paleontology.  Luckily, most Montanans share my enthusiasm, since this state is absolutely full of fossils!”

It was Moore’s position at UM that facilitated the next chapter in her career – YouTube. While giving a fossil talk at spectrUM in 2016, she was approached by a producer from Complexly, a production company founded by UM alumni and brothers Hank and John Green. The producer asked Moore if she would appear on the SciShow Talk Show, where Hank interviews people with cool jobs. Moore happily agreed and found out after filming that Complexly had an idea for a new YouTube channel, one that focused on the history of life on Earth. They asked if she would be willing to be one of the hosts.

“In June of 2017, we launched Eons, a channel produced in collaboration with PBS Digital Studios,” Moore reported. “Working on Eons has been extremely satisfying. Not only do I host, but I fact-check every script, help find images for the episodes, double-check images in our draft episodes, write copy for our social media posts, and help brainstorm ideas for new episodes and other fun projects. In early November of 2019, we hit a major milestone with one million subscribers!”

Somehow between managing the Paleontology Collection and being a YouTuber, Moore also finds time to help the Department of Geosciences with the new iGlobe system that has a kiosk on the first floor of the Clapp Building, along with the T. rex fossil exhibit and other specimens from the Paleontology Collection.

The iGlobe display, which is the only one in Missoula, has a specialized lens and an iPad to control the computer housed within the display kiosk. Through using the iPad, visitors can interactively select and see overlays of maps on the sphere that display information available from the Earth and space sciences as well as from geography and social sciences. More of these layers can be added anytime, and the system is compatible with any of the media (still images or videos with sound) from NOAA's "Science on a Sphere" database.

In the proposal to fund this exhibit, Geosciences professor Hilary Martens wrote, “Digital globes are transforming the way in which global information can be communicated to students and the public. Traditionally, students have learned about global datasets, such as planetary surfaces and plate tectonics, on 2D maps or by exploring 3D static globes. Google Earth has allowed students to engage with global datasets interactively, albeit still on a 2D screen. Digital globes, however, display spherical datasets in three dimensions (and without the need for specialized 3D movies and glasses!). A huge variety of information can be displayed on a digital globe, from historical political boundaries to dynamic cloud motions on Saturn.”

This hands-on exhibit has been great for K-12 and college-level students as well as community visitors. It has allowed students and visitors to visualize and interpret 3D datasets. From climate models to plate tectonics and Martian landforms to human migration patterns, this system shows how UM is meeting the requirement for modern science education to show a deep understanding of global and planetary systems.

Image: Kallie Moore shares the iGlobe system with a school tour group who happened by as she was unpacking this new tool.