by Tynessa Morgan-Craft
I was fortunate enough to attend the collaborative workshop at the University of Florida on 3D digitization of fossils geared towards educators and citizen scientists. The event was sponsored by the FOSSIL Project in conjunction with iDigBio and MorphoSource. I was given the opportunity to network with members of the paleontology community that share our unique issues as citizen scientists as well as with professionals that sparked interesting dialogues and collaborative lesson planning.
I was able to draw on my experiences as a fossil club member as well as an educator while being captivated by presentations on topics such as the biotic response of reptiles to climatic shifts by Dr. Alex Hastings, the extinction of megalodon as an introduction to evolution by Dr. Dana Ehret, and the evolutionary response of the horse to climatic change by Dr. Bruce MacFadden and Mr. Sean Moran. Each leader facilitated a brainstorming session on the topic of using 3D printed materials in an educational setting.
Each afternoon we were led on a guided tour of the Florida Museum of Natural History’s paleo collections. I first selected the invertebrate tour with Alex Kittle, Curatorial Assistant, and then Dr. MacFadden’s vertebrate collection tour. The University of Florida is home to one of the largest public university fossil collections in the nation and actually includes a third collection of paleobotany materials that time did not permit me to explore.
A particularly relevant session to my capacity as education chair of the Dallas Paleontological Society (DPS) was led by PhD candidate Victor Perez on collaboration between K-12 educators and paleontology clubs. I was able to walk away with concrete ideas to share with the education committee in terms of how we, as a paleontological society, can assist teachers in increasing student engagement in STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) education. The DPS children’s outreach program, PIT Crew (Paleontologists in Training), is currently preparing to host a booth at the Dallas Zoo Science Day on September 26th for Dallas-Fort Worth educators. PIT Crew teachers have been working to create lesson plans for K-8 classrooms focusing on earth science with an emphasis on paleontology. I am grateful to Mr. Perez and my fellow session participants for their feedback on tabling events and outreach efforts.
My final day in Florida was spent at Thomas Farm, an excavation site that has been divulging secrets since 1931. I will admit that I did not believe that I would find much, but I was pleasantly proven wrong. Fragments of horse material were plentiful in this snapshot of the early Miocene epoch created by a massive sinkhole.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the staff of the FOSSIL Project for their wonderful hospitality. I would also like to thank my fellow conference attendees for advice and future collaborative efforts. My newly acquired knowledge will allow me to share new imaging techniques and resources to support our mission of making paleontology accessible to everyone.
You can find more information about the workshop including the complete agenda and recordings of the presentations here.