As a retired dental hygienist, she used to clean people’s teeth. Now, as a 78-year-young superstar volunteer at Dinosaur Journey in Fruita, she cleans dinosaur teeth, bones, and other fossil specimens. For her 31 years of volunteer work with the Museums of Western Colorado, Kay Fredette was honored in October at the annual Colorado Governor’s Tourism Conference with the 2017 Jack Snow Award for Outstanding Volunteer of the Year.
“I cannot imagine anyone more worthy of this award,” says Julia McHugh, Curator of Paleontology for the Museum. “She gives so much of herself to help us each and every day, both in the lab and in the field. There is no project she is not willing to try, and she succeeds time and time again – from measuring serrations on hundreds of teeth with millimeter precision, to experimenting with new tools in the lab, to sifting through a cramped one meter-by-one meter hole in 100 degree summertime weather.”
Fredette started working at Dinosaur Valley in 1986, and in 2000 helped Museums of Western Colorado move its paleontological program from Grand Junction to Fruita with the facility then renamed Dinosaur Journey.
“Typically putting in 800+ hours a year, Kay has been a significant force in Dinosaur Journey’s status as one of the leading paleontology museums in the nation,” says Museum Executive Director Peter Booth, who worked with Visit Grand Junction (a department of the City of Grand Junction) to make the successful state-level award nomination of Fredette.
As the Volunteer Laboratory Supervisor, Fredette directs the cleaning and preparation of fossil specimens for study and exhibit – a highly time-consuming process that can require months for some specimens. She also is responsible for training new lab volunteers and helps with fossil identification, a task that takes years of experience to develop.
“Her skill and knowledge in all of this work is exceptional,” says Booth. “During the summer dig season, Kay helps direct our program that brings in visitors from all over globe to help with fossil excavations. Her efforts have paid off with some internationally noteworthy finds that have significantly expanded understanding of the ancient Jurassic world.”
For more information on volunteer opportunities at Dinosaur Journey and other Museums of Western Colorado sites (Cross Orchards, Museum of the West), visit our website or call Volunteer Coordinator Carly Jones at 970.242.0971.