BY LEE POST (a.k.a. Boneman)
Step by step guides for the
preparation and articulation of
animal skeletons.
University of Alaska (Homer) Articulation Class
Many years ago, Dr. Debbie Tobin, (known as Debbie) a volunteer-magnet, super-teacher, college
professor, moved to town and soon became the head of the stranding network, documenting and
collecting stranded marine mammals in this area. I joined her one day when she was looking for help in
a day-long butchering project in which we salvaged a gray whale skull, flipper and a few select bones.
This led to various other marine mammals over the years being collected, necropsied, and the
skeletons cleaned, usually by composting in horse manure.

Debbie was typically too frantically busy, as were her students to ever get very far in the articulation of
any of these  cleaned skeletons, this being the part that they claimed they were most interested in. So I
offered to help her with an articulation class and she turned it around and instead offered to help me  
get started if I would teach one.

So in the fall of 2014, I signed up to be an adjunct teacher for a one credit class called Marine Skeleton
Articulation - not really thinking I'd get enough students. Instead it filled to overflowing with thirteen
students. Seven of them were from out-of-state and were here for
The Semester By the Bay program
that Debbie piloted for the Kachemak Bay Campus of the University of Alaska.
Dr. Debbie Tobin
Photo by Michael Armstrong
Watching the whale skeleton being
Photo by Michael Armstrong
Final adjustments.
Photo by Michael Armstrong
Necropsy on Stejnengers Beaked
whale from Kachemak Bay - fall 2011.
It all fit in a few totes, was transported
back to Homer, Alaska, and buried in
horse manure.
(Zoo-Doo Processing)
Excavated a couple years later.
Several studious students
sifting skeleton sections.
Students constructing raised-bed
compost boxes for cleaning skeletons.
Ver. 2.0
Adult male sea lion after 6 weeks in
raised-bed compost bin.
(Not quite ready.)
Bones being excavated from compost
Super-students, Lauren and Chandler,
adding silicone cartilage between the
Ashley of team "Flipper Fixers"
touching up repair work on their flipper
Plentiful projects in process.
(Adriana and Ashley on flippers.)
Professor picking pose
for pet project.
Students calculating the numbers that will
transfer the spinal curve to a life-size
Making a life-size template.
Off to a good start.
A high-tech bending jig in action as
students fabricate the curved steel
backbone rod.
Student interns Stephen and Ashley
building the support structure on which
the whale skeleton was constructed.
Students drilling holes through the
vertebrae for the steel rod to pass
Jeni of the team "Back Attack" sanding one of the
many repairs that had to be done to fix broken
(These were broken before the whale was
Shelby drilling small pilot holes through
the center of the vertebrae.
Excited students putting first vertebrae
on the steel backbone rod.
Roman of the team "Ribbers" installing rib
Class, including Professor Tobin,
doing finish work on the tail section.
Chandler doing final coat
silicone  magic.
Team "Tail-Piece," Stephen and Nolan,
enlisted the thinner fingers of team
"Flipper Fixers" to help with the silicone
Cutting off flipper attachment bolts
using a high-speed rotary tool.
Team "Head-On" Axel and
Landon, taking skull
Last but not least, Professor Tobin
installing the pelvic bones.
Installing the fabricated metal tail fluke
outline made by team "Tail-Piece."
Fancy swims again.
Click on photos to enlarge
Click on photos to enlarge
Click on photos to enlarge
We had a 14-foot young female Stejnengers Beaked whale we had collected and cleaned a few years prior - and the back of a classroom to use. The big
unknown was if nine, three-hour classes was enough time to get the whale built. It wasn't. But it got done anyway because many students started coming in on
Saturdays and other open time slots to work on the skeleton. Time for formal teaching was limited to a couple lessons and note-taking opportunities were even
more rushed. But on December 5, 2014, the whale was carried down the hall and suspended from a beam in the student services room. The whale named
“Fancy” swims again.

Article from the Homer News regarding this class "
Designed to Inspire"

* * * A special thank you to Michael Armstrong for the use of a few of his photos as indicated below. * * *

All other photos by Lee Post  copyright 2005 by Lee Post                                                      Illustrations copyright  by Lee Post. All Rights Reserved                                                                        Merry Web Designs copyright 2005
THIS SITE LAST UPDATED: February 20, 2016