Chuck Warner will discuss his new book Birds, Bones, and Beetles: The Improbable Career and Remarkable Legacy of University of Kansas Naturalist Charles D. Bunker
Sternberg Museum of Natural History, Sunday, November 3rd at 1:30 pm CST
The book spans the life and accomplishments of an early pioneer and naturalist at the University of Kansas Natural History Museum, who had important ties to the fossil fields of western Kansas.
On July 2, 1911, Charles Bunker labored under a scorching sun as he carefully picked at the outcropping of a dry creek bed near the Smoky Hill River a few miles south of Wallace, Kansas. After several hours of slow and meticulous handwork, a four-foot jawbone containing three and four-inch teeth were fully exposed. It would turn out to be from a 45-foot sea serpent that would have ruled the shallow sea that covered western Kansas some 65 million years ago. For Bunk, a nickname he acquired from his colleagues at the museum, finding this prize was quite unexpected since the mission of his field trip was to collect bird and mammal specimens and not fossils.
Because the specimen was so large and much of the fossil bones were imbedded in rock, paleontologists disagreed on the species until the 1960s. Finally, it was determined that Bunker’s sea serpent was a mosasaur and the largest Tylosaurus proriger found in North America. In 2014 the species was recognized as the State of Kansas Marine Fossil and today this centerpiece of the museum’s fossil collection hangs over the entryway of Dyche Hall to greet all visitors to the KU Natural History Museum.
Following Bunker’s field notes and university and community records, Chuck Warner wrote Birds, Bones, and Beetles, about the extraordinary life of his grandfather, Charles Bunker. Bunk’s long career at the KU Natural History Museum began in 1895 as a lowly taxidermist. Despite being naturally shy and possessing only an 8th-grade education, he went on to serve as the curator of the collections of birds and mammals for 35 years. His contributions include extensive work on the original installation of Panorama at the museum, developing a process to utilize beetles to efficiently clean skeleton for the museum collection, and training generations of students who went on to highly successful careers at prestigious institutions across the country.
This book was published by the University Press of Kansas in May of 2019 and has already received a recommendation from the Association of College and Research Libraries, a division of the American Library Association. This review will be published in the November 2019 CHOICE Connect and will recommend the book as “a valuable resource for those interested in the history of science.”
The book will be available to purchase in the Excavations Gift Shop.
Bring your bags, buckets, barrels, pillowcases, whatever you can find to fill with you for this year’s Halloween Spooktacular from 3:00 – 4:30 PM. Come to the Sternberg Museum for an afternoon of tricks and treats! Wear your best costume to meet some of our animals and get interviewed by Eagle Communication!
Thursday, October 31st
3:00 – 4:30 PM
Hosted by Eagle Communications