The Whiteside Museum

of Natural History

Whiteside Emblem 125

Christopher J. Flis

Chris has been hunting fossils since he could walk. Saying that he has a passion for science is quite the understatement. Born in Midland, TX and raised all over from Ireland to Lousiana, he is a true dinosaur cowboy with a worldly charm. Chris has a degree in English and minor in History from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and began his museum career curating for what is now the Lafayette Science Museum. Soon thereafter, he was hired to build and curate new branches of the Houston Museum of Natural Science in The Woodlands and Sugarland, TX. During this time he made his first trips to Seymour, working with Dr. Bakker of the Houston Museum on excavations at the Craddock Ranch. Fortunately, the little town of Seymour got under his skin and his passion for the town and its people continues to grow alongside the success of Seymour's newest museum.

Museum Director

Meet the Staff

Collections Curator &     Lead Preparator

Leigh A. Cook

Leigh has been a Texas girl all her life. She grew up in Houston with the exception of four years, when she and her family were transferred to Venezuela. Living abroad she gained an understanding for other cultures and learned to speak Spanish as a second language. Her love of fossils, nature and the outdoors, led her to volunteer with the Houston Museum of Natural Science in 2009. There she participated in fieldwork and fossil preparation under the direction of Dr. Robert T. Bakker and David P. Temple. Since the Whiteside Museum's opening in June of 2014, she has actively participated in fieldwork, research, and fossil preparation. Leigh's passion for fossils and the need to see them properly preserved, documented, and displayed have led to her current role as the Whiteside Museum of Natural History's Collections Curator and Lead Preparator.

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Curator of

Permian Coprology


Troy has spent most of his life in the Research and Development field with Compaq Computers and worked as product engineer for Hewlett Packard and retired years ago to follow his dreams of working with the best Paleontology minds on this planet. He has a passion for fossil hunting. Currently lives in Houston, Texas. He has been volunteering with the Whiteside Museum since before it opened and loves to work with fossils and prepping them. Currently the museum Curator of Permian Coprolites for two museums WMNH and HMNS where he volunteers with Dr. Robert T. Bakker and Christopher J. Flis on digs, researches specimens found, and preps the fossils for fun.

Troy H. Bell



Museum Director

Coleton first started as a volunteer at the museum working in the preparation lab and going regularly to the dig sites  He continues to enjoy digging and prepping fossils in addition to working with students on school field tours and other visitors sharing his knowledge. He received his degree from the University of North Texas in History with a minor in German Language. He never imagined he would end up researching creatures who roamed the very same area of the earth 300 million years ago where he grew up. As Assistant Curator, Coleton will be assisting the development of projects of the museum insuring a good experience for all our visitors.

Coleton Caldwell

Joe Bush

Joe is originally from Pascagoula, MS, but grew up in Groesbeck, TX.  His love of animals came from his childhood of living in the country where he had plenty of wild critters, including lizards and snakes, to explore.  After graduating from Groesbeck High School he joined the Navy and served as an  Aviation Electricians Mate from 1998 to 2002. Joe and his family moved to Seymour in 2005 and he started to volunteer at the museum two years ago by bringing in live animals for the exhibits, rock specimens, and fossils.  Joe now serves as WMNH’s  Co-Curator of Live Animals. His duties include maintaining all of the museum’s reptiles and amphibians, as well as, providing educational programs for the museum’s visitors.  His past also included volunteer activities at a safari in Gentry, AR and a reptile house in Pensacola, FL.

Marketing Director

Multimedia Director

   Dig Site Captain

Tracy Jon Houpt

Jacob Stripling

Jacob has been interested in finding fossils since he was two years-old.  A native of Seymour, Texas, he is currently a student in the Seymour ISD.  Jacob started volunteering at the museum in June of 2014.  Under the mentorship of Chris Flis, Jacob has begun his journey of becoming a paleontologist.  He is now very active in leading museum tours, participating in the digs, and prepping fossils.  He joins Chris or Coleton in the educational outreach to local schools.  Jacob also likes to spend time with his family, wood working and raising rabbits.


Junior Paleontologist


Co-Curator of

Live Animals

Adjunct Curator of Paleontology


Dr. Robert T. Bakker, Ph. D.


 Curatorial Assistant /         Co-Curator of Live Animals

Holly Cheyenne Simon

Holly is originally from Fort Worth, but has lived in Seymour for one year and almost started volunteering upon arrival.  She's always had a fascination for paleontology and reptiles. WMNH provides her with the opportunity to do both! As Curatorial Assistant and Co-Curator of Live Animals, Holly is responsible for assisting in all musuem activities including the daily care and feeding of our live animals and provides live animal demonstrations to our visitors.  When she's not caring for the animals, she is a productive member of our dig team.  Holly loves that through volunteering, she is able to learn more about paleontology and our live animals and is very satisfied with being able to help provide education experiences to our visitors and contribute to our research.  For her, it's the greatest thing in the world to talk to people who like the same thing you do and get to express your passion to others!


Tracy started volunteering with Whiteside Museum since August 2015. He comes most weekends and spends most of his time digging for fossils, prepping fossils in the lab, or dreaming up and developing creative media products for the museum. He has a Master's Degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University.  Tracy currently serves as the museum's Marketing/ Multimedia Director and Dig Site Captain.  His duties include marketing the museum to various news/science journals and other musuems.  He also  focuses on designing media and web based products to educate and entertain visitors and promote the museum.    

Dr. Bakker is a world renown paleontologist who helped reshape modern theories about dinosaurs, particularly by adding support to the theory that some dinosaurs were endothermic (warm-blooded).  Along with his mentor John Ostrom, Bakker was responsible for initiating the ongoing "dinosaur renaissance" in paleontological studies, beginning with Bakker's article "Dinosaur Renaissance" in the April 1975 issue of Scientific American. His special field is the ecological context and behavior of dinosaurs.  Dr. Bakker has been a major proponent of the theory that dinosaurs were "warm-blooded," smart, fast and adaptable. He published his first paper on dinosaur endothermy in 1968. His seminal work, The Dinosaur Heresies, was published in 1986. He revealed the first evidence of parental care at nesting sites for Allosaurus.