Amateur Spotlight: Bonnie Cronin

Editor’s Note: This issue we highlight Bonnie Cronin of the Florida Fossil Hunters.

There are those that make a difference in lives quietly. Through hard work and long hours of unrecognized efforts, these individuals spend their time gathering, writing, organizing, packing, transporting, and showing their personal collections and educational material to individuals of all ages, sharing their knowledge and enthusiasm about fossils and the field of science. Spending their own personal time to passionately educate young impressionable children and individuals of all ages. The impact of these personal engagements will probably never be known, but to these individuals they persist nonetheless.

We meet many people throughout our lives. Some will be special, with a warm smile and receptivity, they will provide us with experiences that stay with us for a lifetime.

One such individual is Bonnie Cronin. Bonnie is on the Board of Directors for the Florida Fossil Hunters, and holds the following positions: Secretary, Education Chair, Membership Chair, and Newsletter Chair. She also co-authored a poster titled “Using out reach as a bridge between professional paleontologist and the general public”, which was presented at the 2016 Southeastern Section regional meeting of the Geological Society of America conference. Bonnie has worked closely with the FOSSIL project staff, and has coordinated an annual Women in Paleontology educational and outreach event. In addition, Bonnie also conducts a Kid’s Fossil Blast the third Saturday of every month at the Orlando Science Center.

For those of you that know Bonnie, I know you share my appreciation for everything she does, for her kindness, and for her friendship. -Cindy Lockner, Florida Fossil Hunters

Bonnie Cronin & Russell Brown receiving the National Fossil Day Partnership award in 2015


by Bonnie Cronin

Back when there was no internet (circa 1965), it was common to grow up ignorant of the wonders of the universe. So, at 17 I didn’t know much about the origins of our world. Then I came upon a Readers’ Digest article on Louis Leakey and his discoveries of early hominids in Africa….  I was hooked. For the next 30 or so years while working and raising children, I read all I could on the evolution of early humans which led me to learn about how life emerged and even to the beginning of the universe.

Finally, after the kids were grown, I found the Florida Fossil Hunters. I was thrilled to discover that there were other people just as curious about the world and very willing to share what they knew.

My third lucky break was finding Russell Brown in the Florida Fossil Hunters. We share a passion for knowledge and sharing it with others. Together we have collected fossils and casts to use in education and outreach events. We have worked with others in the club to establish a collection for displays most of which are in the Dinosaur Exhibit at the Orlando Science Center. Russell has the eye for detail, so he excels in getting the fossils sorted and identified. Like many amateurs, we have a collection of books to use for references. Also, I like working with kids, so I started a kids’ program that meets about 6 times a year. The idea is to expose the kids to fossils and talk about paleontology in a relaxed environment. Touching the fossils is encouraged. I have learned so much preparing for each “class”.

With the inspiration of the FOSSIL Project, we have endeavored to expand our contacts with the community. We began a Florida Fossil Hunters Facebook page – but not a “closed” one that is used just for paid FFH members. We had the goal of making it a forum for amateurs to talk to one another about hunting for fossils here in Florida and learning about them. It has exceeded my expectations. Today there are over 3,000 members who post pictures, ask questions, and help newbies get started.

Another method of community outreach has been our annual “Women in Paleontology” programs. The FOSSIL Project has been very supportive of this event with resources and young women paleontologists to talk to the people who come. We are still trying to find the right ingredients to reach a larger number of girls and women to challenge and inspire them to go into science.

I have found through volunteering at community events that there are so very many people out there who are hungry for knowledge and haven’t had the opportunities to learn about the evolution of life (it can be a very intimidating topic) and the history of the earth. Some are satisfied with just a nibble of a few facts while others want to sit down to the whole feast. We welcome them all.

During my 2.5 years with the FOSSIL Project, I had the great pleasure of getting to know Bonnie Cronin of the Florida Fossil Hunters.  She has a heartwarming personality and a true passion for paleontology.  Whether working with you in field or working with you on a grant proposal, Bonnie will put in hours of hard work and charm you with her infectious laugh.  She is a force in Central Florida providing opportunities for children to get hands-on experience with fossils.  She has extensive experience doing paleontology presentations at local schools, and she has been heavily involved in the production of NPS Junior Paleontologist Educational Kits which are sent to various national parks/monuments around the U.S.  Bonnie also serves critical roles for the Florida Fossil Hunters, working as Secretary, Education Chair, Newsletter Editor, and Membership Manager.  Along with Russell Brown, Bonnie has been recognized for her contributions to Florida paleontology with the 2012 Howard Converse Award (Florida Museum of Natural History) and the 2015 National Fossil Day Partnership Award.  Keep up the great work, Bonnie! -Eleanor Gardner, Outreach & Engagement Coordinator, University of Kansas Natural History Museum

Bonnie and Russell with the fantastic Florida Fossil Hunter display at an Orlando Science Center event

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