by Victor Perez
Jayson Kowinsky, possibly better known as “fossil guy,” has long been impacting the paleontology community through his website www.fossilguy.com. Jayson purchased the domain name in 2000 with the initial intent of posting field trip reports and seeking out aid in identifying his own fossil finds. However, over the years the website has evolved into a resource for amateur and professional paleontologists alike. Resources expanded from basic education regarding what a fossil is and locality information for making your own discoveries to in depth discussions on “hot topics” like the evolution of Megalodon. In fact, having grown up in Maryland myself, the identification guides on Jayson’s website were among the first resources I used to identify the fossils found along the Calvert Cliffs.
Jayson grew up collecting marine fossils from the Pennsylvanian Ames Limestone (~318-299 million years old) with a particular interest in crinoids and brachiopods. Jayson’s interests became much broader as his field trips expanded. His website provides information on localities all around the mid-Atlantic region with a large swath of geologic ages represented. Of course Jayson’s involvement is not solely limited to his website, but also through contributions to museum collections and participation in museum led excavations. Of particular note is a partial Squalodon (shark-toothed whale) skull discovered along the Calvert Cliffs. Jayson currently works as a high school Physics and Astronomy teacher; however his paleontology interests are not absent in the school setting. Fossils from Jayson’s personal collection are utilized to aid students in the National Science Olympiad program.
When asked how he envisioned the role of amateur paleontologists, Jayson had a rather insightful response:
“Since many important fossil finds are from amateur paleontologists, and those finds would
have eroded away without them, I personally see their role as “scouts,” going out and finding new fossils. If they stumble upon something scientifically valuable, they should notify the nearest museum…If amateurs learn what is scientifically valuable and what is not, and how to help with excavations, they can become a big help to local museums.”
To better align efforts of professional and amateur paleontologists requires increased communication between the two. Every day fossils are being further degraded by weathering processes. In order to capture as much information as possible, it is imperative that collection efforts continue; and yet, no matter how many people are involved we will never find everything. All we can do is amass as many like-minded people as possible and continue to inspire others to join the brigade. Jayson has built an information hub for all of us paleo-centric folk and continues to stimulate this interest in others, an effort that mirrors that of the FOSSIL Project. As our community continues to grow, a challenge to overcome will be establishing a dialogue within that community. We address this issue by fostering relationships between clubs and museums. You can address it by joining the conversation through social media, museum events and club meetings!