by Megan Norr and Vincent Santucci
This year on October 14th, the fifth annual National Fossil Day will be hosted by the National Park Service and the American Geosciences Institute. Established in 2010, National Fossil Day is a celebration organized to promote public awareness and stewardship of fossils, as well as foster a greater appreciation of their scientific and educational value. Fossils are preserved throughout the United States including on our nation’s public lands. America’s fossil record spans the more than a billion years, ranging from Paleozoic trilobites found in Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve in Alaska to ice age animals preserved at Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument in Nevada. By preserving these fossils, and the land surrounding them the public is provided opportunities to enjoy and learn from these remains of ancient life and their prehistoric environments.
Promoted through partnerships with professional organizations, museums, government agencies, and other affiliations, National Fossil Day is currently 324 nationwide partners strong and is still growing. On National Fossil Day, along with the days leading up to and the days afterward, public events and activities are hosted by many of the National Fossil Day partners and national parks. The events and activities promote the understanding that fossils are non-renewable resources and the importance of preserving them for future generations; celebrate the great diversity of fossils as clues to our earth’s past; and highlight the science-based management of fossils on public lands. Paleontologists are encouraged to partake in educational outreach activities at local parks, museums, and schools. Currently planned events for 2015 are displayed online at the events page: http://nature.nps.gov/geology/nationalfossilday/events.cfm.
Each year, an annual National Fossil Day logo is created depicting a different prehistoric organism. In order to help promote a greater understanding of the diverse lifeforms that existed in the past, a lesser known organism is featured in the logo. This year’s National Fossil Day artwork is Cenozoic themed and features the large herbivore mammal known as a chalicothere that roamed the great plains during the Miocene. The Cenozoic Era is commonly referred to as the “Age of Mammals” because of the great diversity of mammals that evolved during that era. Each month, the National Fossil Day website features a different article regarding a Cenozoic fossil locality along with the fossils known from this fossil site. September’s monthly article features Fossil Butte National Monument in Wyoming and it’s wonderfully preserved aquatic ecosystem.
One of the best ways to participate in National Fossil Day is to enter the 2015 National Fossil Day Art & Photo Contest.
The contest is open to any U.S. resident, of any age, who wants to use their creative skills as a paleontologist and as an artist. This year the National Fossil Day Art & Photo contest theme is to create a “Postcard from the Past”. For more information on the contest and instructions, please visit the following website: http://nature.nps.gov/geology/nationalfossilday/art_contest.cfm.
Make sure to check out the National Fossil Day website, to meet a paleontologist, read the monthly featured articles, check out local fossil events and activities, and much more at http://nature.nps.gov/geology/nationalfossilday/index.cfm.