Beneath the open jaws of a crouching dinosaur, Briana Smith pressed her small rotating saw into a plaster cast.
Inside the cast lay pieces of a creature that had roamed Alaska about 70 million years ago. Smith’s colleague Tony Fiorillo, a paleontologist and chief curator of the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, found the fossils on one of his many expeditions to the Arctic. He had swaddled them in a cocoon of paper, burlap and plaster to protect them on the 4,000-mile helicopter, plane and tractor-trailer journey to Dallas. Now, Smith was beginning the long process of figuring out exactly what Fiorillo had brought back.
Normally Smith, an assistant fossil preparator at the Perot Museum, works far from public view in a basement lab in Fair Park. Starting this week, she and her colleagues will be on display alongside many of the dinosaur bones they helped extract and assemble.