by Victor Perez
I recently had the great pleasure of visiting the North American Research Group (NARG) for their annual Fossil Festival and some fossil collecting near John Day National Monument. The Fossil Fest was held at the Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals just outside of Portland, Oregon. Nested within a small forest, this museum contains an exceptional collection of rocks, minerals, and fossils, with a particularly amazing collection of silicified wood. Just outside the museum a ring of display tables were set up with a variety of fossil exhibits and activities for visitors to appreciate.
Every year, the Fossil Fest has a paleontology-related theme–this year’s theme was teeth. The theme was reflected in the display tables and through two presentations by Dr. John Bershaw and myself. Dr. Bershaw spoke about utilizing isotopes in fossil teeth to determine altimetry in past environments. I spoke about using fossil teeth to determine the evolution of Carcharocles megalodon and how we’ve incorporated 3D printing to bring these teeth into K12 classrooms. I certainly hope to make it back next year and strongly encourage everyone else to visit as well!
The rest of my trip in Oregon was spent just outside of the Painted Hills Unit of John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. Although the monument is protected land, the surrounding land is operated by the Bureau of Land Management, which means you can collect fossil invertebrates and plants without a permit.
I was accompanied by Aaron Currier (president of NARG), Robert Rosé (NARG board member), and MacKenzie Smith (NARG board member). We spent three days in the high desert collecting fossils to be used in K12 educational kits. We were particularly focused on finding Metasequoia leaves. However, within the first half-day we found over 300 Metasequoia leaves (much more than we needed). So we spent our remaining time looking for ammonites at a Cretaceous site and fish scales along a road-cut. Overall, it was an amazing experience, during which I made some great new friends and discovered some incredible fossils. I can’t wait to return and visit the Oregon coast for another flavor of fossil collecting in Oregon.
Thank you to everyone who made the trip such a memorable experience! If you want to see more pictures from my Adventures in Oregon, visit The FOSSIL Project Facebook page.