Poster girl for the Jurassic Park generation

(Edmonton) How do you nurture a childhood passion for ancient creatures into a career? Like so many children, Shannon Kraichy discovered her love for dinosaurs at an early age. “Most kids grow out of the dinosaur phase, but I never did. So naturally, I wanted to be a paleontologist when I grew up,” she says.

A self-professed child of “the Jurassic Park generation,” Shannon was drawn to the University of Alberta’s paleontology program, based on its international reputation, renowned faculty and staff, and unique offering of field schools at the undergraduate level. She’s graduating with a BSc this spring, but her journey is just beginning.

“I only recently discovered how I want to use my paleontology degree,” she says. “My real ‘aha’ moment came when I looked back at my previous work and volunteer experience. I realized I was already doing what I loved—teaching the public about prehistoric life.”

She found herself gravitating toward jobs and experiences such as leading museum tours and hikes to fossil sites. “That's what led me to museums,” she says, noting they’re the perfect forum to share her knowledge.

Shannon is spending the summer months with the central campus team of museum professionals as a successful candidate in the Friends of the University of Alberta Museums Summer Internship.

“We are delighted to have Shannon as one of our interns this year,” says Janine Andrews, executive director of the U of A Museums. “It’s inspiring for our staff to get a fresh perspective every year from such accomplished students.”

The internship will give Shannon hands-on experience with the U of A’s internationally renowned museum collections, working in collections management, conservation, research, exhibitions, programming and community engagement.

Shannon credits her experiences at the U of A for motivating her to pursue a career in paleontology and museums. “So many of my professors have been amazing influences on me,” she says, noting in particular Philip Currie, curator of dinosaurs, and Lindsey Leighton, curator of invertebrate paleontology. “Growing up, I only heard about male paleontologists, so it was so inspiring to see women could be extremely successful scientists in a still male-dominated field,” Shannon notes, mentioning Alison Murray (curator of the U of A Museum of Zoology), Eva Koppelhus, Angelica Torices, Miriam Reichel and Victoria Arbour.

Just as her professors have done for her, Shannon’s goal is to inspire future generations with her passion for paleontology. She is enrolled this fall to study a master’s in museum education at the University of British Columbia. “Museum education offers me such a dynamic and flexible future,” she says. “This program mirrors the changed role of museums as simply 'places to store objects' into exciting places to educate and engage the community, focused on all age groups, in any setting.”

To those aspiring to follow in her footsteps, Shannon has this advice: “Get involved, but in things you love doing.” In her “spare” time on campus, she volunteered as both VP internal of the Aboriginal Student Council and VP external of the Paleontological Society. “My involvement in the community has opened so many doors and connected me to wonderful people, but only because I had a passion for what I was doing.”