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The Bone Project
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Lake Erie College Equestrian Centers "The Bone Project"

Approximately two years ago, our equestrian facility met with tragedy as one of the beloved broodmares gave birth to a stillborn foal.  A very sad moment for all, indeed; but our students, along with Professor of Equine Studies Dr. Elisabeth Giedt embarked on a difficult and tedious journey and turned this tragedy into a real-life learning experience.

The foal was born in March 2011 and an autopsy (or as we say in veterinary medicine--- a necropsy) was performed by our Dean, Pamela Hess, D.V.M. Following gross and microscopic tissue evaluation the cause of death was determined to be anomalies in fetal development and bleeding into the abdomen. 

A very generous friend of the College, Mr. John Stehli, allowed us to place the foal in a protected area on his farm to allow decomposition to occur.  Over the course of the summer the soft tissue was removed by the action of insects and bacteria, viruses, fungi and protozoa.  Soft tissue includes skin, organs, ligaments and tendons.  Once decomposition had taken place, a dedicated group of students collected the skeleton and labeled the bones in fall 2011 and brought them back to Lake Erie College.

In Spring semester 2012, we began what we affectionately call "The Bone Project.”

Dr. Tim Matson, the curator for vertebrate zoology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, shared his expertise regarding the procedures to clean up the bones.  Students opted to prime and paint the bones to provide a uniform color and enhance the quality of the display.  Experts were consulted to confirm the identification of various bones.

The students worked feverishly on this project for the entire semester and after many hours of work were still left with an unfinished project.  With much determination, in spring 2013, one member from the original group and several new members set their sights on completing what would become a very impressive skeletal display.  This group of undergraduate students used numerous resources to complete this project.  

The most impressive part of this project was the dogged determination of the students.  They experienced many failures but continued on.  They used materials not used in traditional skeleton displays.  They asked their friends for ideas.  They tested and tried out glues and used tools provided by our good friend, the Tool Time Guy for Lake Erie College, John Stehli.  Our students taught themselves how to drill through bone and attach ribs to the spinal cord with hot glue.  Gabriel Frato made the cabinet on which this display is set.  Danielle Waite brought in her tools and tapped the expertise of her family for construction of the foal head.  Jillian Misenko shared her expertise with bone identification (remember: this is a foal; many areas of the skeleton are just cartilage, and cartilage is not preserved like bone!)  We also thank her partner Matt for his suggestions on the use of copper for supporting the limbs.

This project is an excellent example of a great idea put into action by a dedicated team of students helping one another.  It is experiential learning at its finest, allowing participants to collaborate with experts at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and the conservators at the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology.

The Lake Erie College Department of Equine Studies would like to thank:
  • John Stehli, for providing space for the decomposition and tools and expertise for the construction of a display
  • The employees of Home Depot in Chardon, for their expert suggestions about preparing a frame for bone placement
  • Dr. Tim Matson, Curator of Vertebrate Zoology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, for his advice on skeleton preparation
  • The employees of Joughin Hardware in Painesville, for their advice and support
  • The employees of Sherwin Williams, for paint advice
Students Participating in the Project:
  • Class of 2013: Gabby Frato, Stephanie Johnson, Jillian Misenko and Danny Waite
  • Class of 2014: Claire Arnold, Jace Compton and Sam Parlapiano
  • Class of 2015: Maddie Weiman and Rebecca Sibinga
  • Class of 2016: Samantha Wagner
Outside contributors: 
  • John Stehli, farm owner
  • Dr. Tim Matson, Curator for vertebrate zoology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History
  • John Colucci, Farrier Lake Erie College
  • Ed Cigany, Farrier Equine Specialty Hospital
Current and former LEC staff members:
  • Eric Bryam 
  • Jeff Jernejcic
  • Jim Truckly
  • Bud Pierce
Lake Erie College | 391 West Washington Street | Painesville, Ohio 44077 | 1.855.GO.STORM