For Ryan Roney, a childhood hobby has turned into a fulfilling career at Tellus Science Museum.
A collector of items, ranging from fossils to comic books, in his youth, the Cartersville resident now oversees more than 12,000 specimens at the 120,000-square-foot venue.
“I love taking care of the objects at Tellus,” said Roney, the curator for Tellus Science Museum in Cartersville. “I was a collector of everything in my childhood. I had collections of coins, stamps, rocks, fossils, insects, comic books, leaves — you name it.
“I get to delve into the details with the items at the museum and have the opportunity to guide the future growth of the collection. Another part I enjoy is talking with people about geology and paleontology. I love the conversations I have over an identification inquiry or when looking at someone’s personal collection. The mix of face-to-face interaction and the escape into the quiet world of the collection with interspersed days in the field make the job a joy.”
An expansion of the former Weinman Mineral Museum, Tellus opened at 100 Tellus Drive in Cartersville in January 2009 and became a Smithsonian affiliate during its first year.
Along with The Collins Family My Big Backyard hands-on science gallery, the museum contains three main galleries — Science in Motion, The Weinman Mineral Gallery and The Fossil Gallery — a 120-seat digital planetarium, solar house and observatory.
Name: Ryan O. Roney
Occupation (title): Curator and paleontologist
City of residence: Cartersville
Family: Married, three children
Education: Ph.D. candidate at The University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK); Master of Science in Geology, 2013 — UTK; Bachelor of Science in Geology, 2011 — Georgia Southwestern State University (GSW); Bachelor of Arts in Spanish, 2007 — University of West Georgia (UWG). Attended Cross Keys High School in DeKalb County and graduated from Collins Hill High School in Gwinnett County.
The Daily Tribune News (DTN): When did you join Tellus Science Museum, and why did you want to be a part of this organization?
RR: I was hired at the start of this year. I had visited Tellus for the first time in 2010 during a Georgia Geological Society annual meeting. I met a prior Tellus curator — Julian Gray — who showed me around the facility and helped me with suggestions for some fossil cleaning I was doing. I was impressed with the facility and the collection. When I saw the position for curator open up last year, I jumped at the chance to return to Georgia and be closer to family and work in my field of study.
DTN: How did you get into this line of work?
RR: Following my first bachelor’s degree, I worked in sales for a few years and quickly realized I wanted to work in science. Having minored in geology at UWG, I decided to pursue a second degree in that field. My experiences at GSW, where I did my BS in geology, [led] me to grad school at UTK. Since graduate studies in paleontology generally lead one into academia or museum work, these were the jobs I was looking for.
DTN: What does your job entail?
RR: I care for the 12,000-plus items that make up the collection at Tellus. I also seek out new material to add to the collection via field collecting, donation or purchase. I respond to public inquiries about information relating to rocks, minerals, fossils and general geology, and identify items brought in by individuals.
DTN: So far, what is your favorite exhibit or piece that you had a hand in acquiring/designing, and why so?
RR: An exhibit idea that I suggested in my first few months at Tellus will become a temporary exhibit early next year. It will feature architectural stones from Georgia, such as marble and granite, and the history of their mining and use. I have enjoyed assisting the exhibit team in researching the topic, and look forward to participating in the setup of the exhibit.
DTN: What are your future aspirations for Tellus' collection — permanent collection and temporary exhibits?
RR: As soon as I started at Tellus, I was added to [a] book project about the fossils of Georgia. The project is spearheaded by Tellus Executive Director Jose Santamaria and Tellus volunteer and amateur paleontologist, William Montante. The fossils stored in the collection at Tellus have a good representation of invertebrate fossils from northwestern Georgia, and I hope to help this collection expand to better represent … the rest of the state.
I also hope to start a research program in the coming years and develop a program of volunteer-based research.
DTN: What is your favorite spot in the museum, and why?
RR: In the Fossil Gallery farthest from both entrances — where Cretaceous marine reptiles, like the mosasaur and plesiosaur are featured — the shape of the gallery muffles all of the sounds from the rest of the museum. The water ripple effect and dim lighting makes it a quiet, peaceful spot.
DTN: What is your greatest professional and/or personal achievement?
RR: I’ll go with an interesting achievement — I was once asked by The LEGO Group to build an alternate build of one of their brick sets and submit it to the company.
DTN: How would you describe yourself in three words?
RR: Inquisitive, exuberant, conscientious
DTN: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
RR: I am fluent in Spanish and Portuguese, and am conversant in German.
DTN: What is the best advice you have ever received?
RR: My years in Scouting and doing church service reinforce the importance of service in all one does. For me, it has been a constant reminder to consider others before myself and that helps me do and be better. Not really advice, but daily motivation comes to me from a line in the pioneer hymn “Come, Come Ye Saints” where it says, “Why should we think to earn a great reward, if we now shun the fight?”
DTN: What do you like to do in your spare time?
RR: When all of the yard work and home repairs are done, I enjoy building with LEGO bricks. I also enjoy playing various musical instruments with my children, and listening to my wife play her piano.
DTN: Where is your favorite place to be in Bartow County?
RR: Since we are new to the area, I am still exploring all there is to do and see in the county with my family.