The FOSSIL Project: Personal Reflections, Recognition, and Thanks

by Bruce J. MacFadden (@bmacfadden)

The FOSSIL Project officially began in 2013 with the submission of a proposal to the National Science Foundation (NSF). Back then we did not fully understand where it would lead over the next six years and all of the positive outcomes that have happened during this interval. Our original intent was to develop an online learning network, or what is called a “community of practice” (CoP), that would link fossil clubs, other interested individuals, and professional paleontologists throughout the U.S. We had no idea how successful this was going to be, and how it would effectively address some of the challenges of building this kind of network.

In February of 2014, after receiving funding from the NSF, we invited representatives of fossil clubs to join us at the 10th North American Paleontological Convention (NAPC) in Gainesville, FL (Fig. 1). For many members of fossil clubs, this was their first professional scientific meeting. For some (but not all) professionals, this was one of the few times that they attended a meeting with so many amateur participants. Since that time, many of our fossil club members and other amateurs have not just attended other professional meetings, but also have delivered either posters or talks from the podium. The FOSSIL Project has encouraged this practice, and in so doing, made these meetings hopefully more inclusive.

Figure 1. NAPC 10 in Gainesville, FL

Project-supported field trips have been important to, and an essential element of the FOSSIL community. In partnership with local fossil clubs and related organizations (including the Calvert Marine Museum Fossil Club, Dry Dredgers, Dallas Paleontological Society, and Special Friends of the Aurora Fossil Museum), we sponsored numerous field trips during the project. These have been special opportunities for us to share knowledge, socialize, and do what we all like to do—get in the field and collect fossils.

In addition to face-to-face meetings and field trips, it was clear from the beginning that the FOSSIL website would be the glue that held the project together. University of Florida science education professor (and Co-principal Investigator) Kent Crippen, however, had a greater vision—he saw “myFOSSIL” as a portal to understanding how people learn in online CoPs. The National Science Foundation is interested in the generation of new knowledge about how people learn in these connected communities, and how such knowledge “advances the field” of Informal STEM (Science) Learning. Accordingly, the myFOSSIL website and related concepts (e.g., social media) were developed to help our team study learning within the context of “social paleontology.” Following a formalized research protocol (approved by UF), new participants on the website could consent to participate in this study, and provide important data on who makes up the myFOSSIL community. These data have been, and will continue to be, vital to learning research outcomes of the FOSSIL project.

In addition to conducting research, NSF also expected us to disseminate our learning research findings to our colleagues and other stakeholders. This was done through more than 45 presentations (including talks, panel discussions, and via posters) at conferences and fossil club meetings. The presenters included not just the project team, but also members of our CoP. Our team has also published, or has in press, almost 10 refereed papers in professional scientific journals; more are in the works. The FOSSIL project also was an example of “Broader Impacts” in my recent book with the same title published by Cambridge University Press. Our number of active participants on the website is approaching 2,000 and grows every day. It is gratifying to see new members connecting from clubs, individually, and internationally as well. The big story, however, is the impact of social media in building this community, as is discussed below.

Our NSF project has been chronicled by more than two dozen newsletters, the last of which is being sent to you now with this article. These newsletters serve as evidence of the activities of FOSSIL and our stakeholders, and provide lots of relevant content. More so than anyone, Dr. Shari Ellis has been the person in charge of making the newsletter viable. She has, however, also benefitted greatly from the contributions of stakeholders and the FOSSIL support team. All of the newsletters are archived on the myFOSSIL website and constitute a historical archive of this project.

I never envisioned the extent to which social media would have an impact on building the myFOSSIL community. To say that I am social media-challenged is an understatement. It has formed a cornerstone of the project, not only as the core research done by Lisa Lundgren for her PhD, but also for all of the other users who understand its value as a communication and engagement tool far better than I do. Of our approximately 10,000 members of our myFOSSIL CoP, more than three quarters of them reach us through social media, which primarily has been through Facebook and Twitter. However, two years ago we decided to experiment with Instagram because other studies had indicated that this platform tends to engage a younger audience, one that we still wanted to attract. The rate of growth in the myFOSSIL Instagram account has been nothing less than amazing (Fig. 2); in this time it has eclipsed our Twitter and Facebook followers and continues to attract active engagement. Research on the FOSSIL community using “network analysis” continues with Dr. Crippen and his students.

Figure 2. myFOSSIL Community Growth


In 2017 we submitted a request for supplemental funds to develop a myFOSSIL mobile app (Fig. 3) to promote public engagement in science though active uploading of fossils discoveries, including photos and associated locality data. In so doing, participants collect the same data as do scientists, thereby learning the nature (process) of science. The app links directly to the myFOSSIL eMuseum (mFeM) on our website (Fig. 4), which includes an online catalog of fossil discoveries made by our community. These observations are curated by a team of volunteer curators. Specimens that include enough descriptive data to be deemed scientifically valuable are considered “research grade,” and are being readied for aggregation by “big data” providers such as iDigBio and GBIF. With this innovation, our paleontological community is contributing to big data, which is a field of science that is currently expanding rapidly and is the wave of the future. NSF had hoped (and expected) that we would find a way to use the FOSSIL Project as a platform for learning about big data contributions to science, and through the myFOSSIL app and eMuseum (mFeM), this is becoming a reality. We are also pleased that the app and website are sustainable components of the FOSSIL Project that will be supported until at least 2022.

Figure 3. The myFOSSIL Mobile App

Figure 4. The myFOSSIL eMuseum

As with any large project, there are many lessons learned. There were some things that did not work quite so well, or that became of lower priority; three of these are described here: (1) With regard to the latter, early on we developed a “listserv” to communicate to our members. With the advent of social media, however, the listserv became obsolete and we no longer use it. (2) In another lesson learned, we invested lots of effort in developing a series of evening webinars to provide additional content for the members. These were of limited success, attendance dwindled, and were further thwarted by the video technology that oftentimes caused technical problems at the beginning of the webinars. (3) We initially tried to drive membership from social media to participation on the website; this turned out to be unrealistic and we have since understood that the CoP is composed of members connecting with us in different ways. In addition, we heard repeatedly that many fossil clubs were not bringing in the younger generation into the club activities, and they are concerned about the future as a result of this kind of engagement. Based on our demographic data, we are seeing a larger engagement from younger participants through the myFOSSIL app and the explosive growth of Instagram (Fig. 2 above).

When all is said and done, and the data and metrics are collected and analyzed, it all comes down to the hard work of people who are committed to a common goal of learning about, and contributing to, paleontology through their love of fossils. But this does not just happen. There are so many people to thank. First and foremost, without the interest and support of the amateur community, the FOSSIL Project would have faltered. The amateur community quickly grasped its significance and responded accordingly. Back in the office, three project managers were the glue that held the project together; first Kassie Hendy, then Eleanor Gardner, and now Sadie Mills. The project principal investigators have included myself, Kent Crippen, Austin Hendy, Betty Dunckel, and Shari Ellis, all of whom selflessly shared their passion and dedication to making the project a success. Several postdoctoral fellows, most notably Ronnie Leder and Jen Bauer, provided leadership and their knowledge. Likewise, many graduate students and undergraduate research assistants have contributed to the overall success of the project.

Thousands of others have ensured the success of the FOSSIL Project through their active participation in the CoP network. At the risk of excluding someone, several of our amateur colleagues have gone the extra yard. Linda McCall has been active in many ways. As our amateur liaison to the project team she sat through many hours of monthly meetings. Jack Kallmeyer of the Dry Dredgers Fossil Club in Cincinnati mobilized his club, promoted involvement, and has organized a mini-field conference (2016, Fig. 5) and sessions at professional meetings (like recently at the NAPC in Riverside, California). Lee Cone, in his capacity as President of the Special Friends of the Aurora Fossil Museum, mobilized engagement among his group to develop a citizen (community) science partnership with us and the Smithsonian Institution to search for rare early Miocene land mammals from the Belgrade Quarry in eastern North Carolina. I am very excited to see this latter project come to fruition as a jointly co-authored paper published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Figure 5. Field trip in Cincinnati

I also would like to recognize Gabe Santos of the Raymond Alf Museum (Webb School) in Claremont, California. He has used our myFOSSIL platform to engage his students and has promoted this to others; he recently had teachers from Mongolia uploading fossils using the app. I believe that all of these people and others have been advocates for the FOSSIL Project. They also have fundamentally helped to break down some of the perceived amateur—professional barriers that presented a challenge to us at the beginning of the project. To me, it mostly comes down to trust, good people, and working together for the common goal of advancing the science of paleontology and the love of fossil collecting. This is the road to success. To these folks and others who have contributed, we could not have done it without you.

The funding from NSF officially came to an end on 30 September 2019. Just as we launched the FOSSIL Project at NAPC 10 at the University of Florida in Gainesville in 2014, we recently closed the project’s organized professional activities at NAPC 11 at the University of California in Riverside, California in June of 2019 (Fig. 6). Many of the participants who were with us in 2014 also celebrated the FOSSIL Project at NAPC 11.

Figure 6. The FOSSIL Community at NAPC 2019.

For years we have worked on a plan to sustain certain elements of the FOSSIL Project so that NSF’s investment and our hard work would be preserved into the future. The app will remain active, as will portions of our website. We will encourage the use of these components of the FOSSIL Project as we move forward. I also would like to acknowledge our four-year partnership with Atmosphere Apps of Gainesville, Florida–in particular Max Jones, project developer, and Eric Poirier, CEO. I have learned through them that web and app development is fundamentally a process of continuous iterative improvement. They have shared our passion and vision, and for this we are grateful. Using other sources of revenue, we plan to continue the maintenance and functionality of the app and certain components of the website—in particular the Groups, Members, eMuseum, and Resources, for a period of three years (until 2022). Our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram social media presences will also continue at a level that will be dependent more upon your contributions. We hope, therefore, that you will feel empowered to continue contributing to the FOSSIL Project, and in so doing, sustain this robust community and network into the future.

Social Paleontology and FOSSIL’s Contribution to Research on Learning

by Kent Crippen (@kcrippen), Lisa Lundgren (@llundgren) & Richard Bex (@richard-bex)


The FOSSIL Project was funded as a design-based research project, which implied a dual focus in our overall approach. Our first purpose was to use an evidence-based design process to unify amateurs, professionals and natural history museums into a more cohesive national community of practice (CoP), composed of online and face-to-face spaces. Our second purpose, which we pursued in parallel and with equal value and rigor, was to use this process, which we termed social paleontology, as a vehicle for building our understanding of interest-based learning and collaborative scientific practice. Building a community has proven to be a deeply member-centered process that required a service mindset on behalf of the leadership team, a commitment to continuously seeking quality information and the use of iterative cycles of planning, and enacting and evaluating efforts in relation to long-term goals for the community. To this end, we have fostered events and built tools to support social paleontology while studying the naturalistic communication among community members. The results of our learning research can be described in relation to these two purposes.


The FOSSIL Project consists of multiple platforms with few community members participating in all (as of 7/9/19).

A 21st century CoP is built by participants joining from a variety of entry points and platforms (i.e. niches in a communication ecosystem), including the web, social media, and an e-newsletter as well as face-to-face events. Very few community members participate via multiple platforms. Different strategies attract and resonate with different demographics in ways that are related to the nature of each platform. Trying to drive traffic from one niche to another is largely ineffective. In terms of generating broad appealing general interest, webinars were also ineffective and costly to produce. We have learned that CoPs are best developed when adopting a diverse set of entry and participation platforms, each with a different segment of the community, but all of which have value for the network. To be successful, FOSSIL had to be a content provider that made the full range of scientific practice explicit and accessible through targeted events and strategies. In the beginning we planned for our website, listserv, and e-newsletter as key organizing elements. As we added social media the demand among community participants changed dramatically. The growth of social media, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube eclipsed all of our originally envisioned means of communication. With the close of the project our community stands at more than 10,000 participants, the majority of whom interact via social media.



This sociogram shows the network of community members on Twitter who used specific hashtags to talk about paleontology. The structure indicates how information flowed: through members who self-identified as scientists, education and outreach, public, or  commercial.

Our research has shown that community members are diverse in terms of age, gender, geographic location and interest. However, beyond simple demographics, describing the diversity in more nuanced and potentially meaningful ways and using this to understand personal development has proven arduous. Simple dichotomous distinctions like amateur and professional are attractive descriptors, but have limited utility for building or researching a CoP. Descriptions of self-identity, such as Twitter biographies and myFOSSIL user profiles, have shown promise as a vehicle for understanding the motivations of people and recognizing their activities as forms of scientific practice. Using the Paleontological Identity Taxonomy, we have shown that community members encompass four categories (public, education and outreach, scientists, and commercial entities), which can be further subdivided into 26 distinct types. The public category is largely interested in collecting and identifying fossils, but this group also includes those who are engaged with such diverse activities as using paleontology as a vehicle for art. Given the opportunity, members of the public enthusiastically take part in what can be viewed as professional development activities, which then can serve as a vehicle for expanding and deepening connections among community members. Members who focus on education and outreach, like museums or science centers, serve the role of connecting other members. On Twitter, scientists, which ranged from archaeologists to ecologists and included paleontologists, were effective at disseminating and communicating science, but their influence was similar to members of the public. Commercial members were a relatively silent minority within the community and had little influence over paleontological practice, which was an interesting finding given the angst often expressed for the buying and selling of fossils.


Digital forms of scientific practice existed in many forms and were harnessed in productive ways, as we found from researching the myFOSSIL website. Within the website, different features, including forums, an activity feed (similar to a Facebook wall), and private messaging all encouraged different forms of paleontological practice. For example, within forums, members provided non-scientific, community-based support, told personal accounts of paleontology, and produced solutions to domain-specific problems. We also discovered that members who were classified within different categories used the website in distinct ways, with members of the public seeking to supply digital records of their real world paleontological experiences, scientists wanting to solve paleontological problems, and education and outreach entities disseminating outreach activities while requesting social- and research-specific support. These findings show the varied ways that members from across the continuum of expertise added to the science of paleontology. 


It has been a distinct honor and pleasure to serve this community through our participation as members and educational researchers. We offer our gratitude and sincere thanks for those that consented to participate in our research, who provided responses to our surveys and who provided opportunities for feedback. Full details on our research questions, methodologies, tools and findings can be found on the publication page on myFOSSIL. We will continue to be available for any additional comments, feedback and ideas for interesting future collaborations. 


Thank you myFOSSIL community!

Kent, Lisa and Richard


FOSSIL Project Updates, Fall 2019

by Sadie Mills, FOSSIL Project Coordinator (@sadie-mills)


After six exciting and rewarding years the FOSSIL Project, in its current form, is coming to a close. As a National Science Foundation-funded initiative the project was always intended to have a limited lifespan, but we are so proud of all that has been accomplished in just a few years. While many project activities will no longer be supported after September 30th of this year, we are glad to announce that several FOSSIL initiatives will continue. These include our website, eMuseum, and mobile app, although these will largely be supported by the efforts of knowledgeable and dedicated volunteers.  

myFOSSIL eMuseum
myFOSSIL eMuseum

myFOSSIL Mobile App
myFOSSIL mobile app

This summer, we celebrated FOSSIL accomplishments through a series of events at the 11th North American Paleontological Convention (NAPC) in Riverside, California. There, the FOSSIL Project helped support several symposia that welcomed diverse voices into the paleontological community. The first symposium— Engaging Diverse Communities in Paleontology: Innovative educational initiatives that connect culture to natural history, coordinated by Gabriel-Philip Santos, Isaac Magallanes, and Sadie Mills –explored unique ways to use paleontological education to reach new and diverse audiences. A second symposium– Two to Tango: amateur-professional interactions in advancing paleontological knowledgecoordinated by Jack Kallmeyer and Dave Meyer —focused on successful collaborations between amateur and professional paleontologists. Finally, FOSSIL’s own symposium– Past, Present, and Future of the FOSSIL Project, coordinated by Jennifer Bauer –showcased FOSSIL accomplishments and future directions.  


Bruce MacFadden presents on the Past, Present, and Future of the FOSSIL Project at NAPC 2019.
Bruce MacFadden presents on the Past, Present, and Future of the FOSSIL Project at NAPC 2019.

FOSSIL community members share their experiences at NAPC 2019.
FOSSIL community members share their experiences at NAPC 2019.

K-12 Teacher Jennifer Broo shares how she uses fossils in the classroom at NAPC 2019.
K-12 Teacher Jennifer Broo shares how she uses fossils in the classroom at NAPC 2019.


FOSSIL sponsored nearly 50 individuals to attend this conference and share their experiences with social paleontology through these symposia, including teachers, museum educators, amateur paleontologists, and professional paleontologists. In this final issue of the FOSSIL Project newsletter, we deviate from our traditional collection of articles to bring you their perspectives on attending a paleontological conference and being a part of the greater paleontological community. To all members of FOSSIL’s community, we thank you for lending your support, giving your time, and sharing your expertise and passion for fossils with our social paleontology community.

The FOSSIL Community Group Photo.
The FOSSIL Community at NAPC 2019.

Talking Fossils with Teachers at NAPC

by Michael Ziegler (@michael-ziegler)

NAPC 2019 at the University of California, Riverside campus was a tremendously productive conference in regards to presentations and networking. Supported by the FOSSIL project, I helped facilitate an hour long workshop that focused on implementing a lesson plan created by iDigFOSSILS teacher Dr. Elizabeth Lewis and myself. The taphonomy-based lesson plan utilized authentic paleontological research practices and 3D prints of Pleistocene megafauna to promote student inquiry. Providing background content and experience with scientific tools, workshop participants were able to determine the potential culprit of mysterious marks made on the fossils. All in all, the educational workshop successfully promoted the FOSSIL project and recruited some potential future outreach collaborations.

Moreover, the ability to attend NAPC 2019 allowed me to meet colleagues in person which are normally scattered across the country. This was particularly beneficial since Jeanette Pirlo (Florida Museum), Gabe Santos (Alf Museum), and myself are planning an educational & outreach workshop at the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology 2019 meeting. Furthermore, analyzing the posters of other graduate students allowed my to better determine how I’d like to display my M.S. Thesis data. Talking with the poster presentation authors provided insight into best practices and created collaborative lines of communication. Thank you FOSSIL project for your assistance and making NAPC 2019 such a success!


Ziegler at the NAPC Teacher Workshop
Teachers examine 3D printed fossils at the NAPC teacher workshop.

Bringing Authentic Science to the Classroom from NAPC

by Jennifer Broo (@jbroo)

This past summer, I had the amazing opportunity to co-present with Dr. Bruce MacFadden during the “Two to Tango: Amateur-Professional Interactions in Advancing Paleontological Knowledge” Symposium at the 11th North American Paleontological Convention (NAPC). I have gained so much from my partnership and work on fossils and evolution with Dr. MacFadden, most of which has directly improved the content of my teaching, and I was beyond excited to share that experience with others. Although I have been to several education conference, this was my first professional paleontology conference. Suffice it to say, I enjoyed every minute of it. The plenary sessions were outright inspiring with how they emphasized the importance of science in today’s world. The other scientific talks were both informative and interesting, and they allowed me to expand my knowledge of paleontology. I also had the opportunity to visit the La Brea Tar Pits and the Alf Museum.

This was one of the most enriching professional developmental experiences I have ever had. Not only was it mind-blowing to see all the amazing research and discoveries first hand, but I also had the opportunity to network with a wide variety of people, from members of the Dry Dredgers to professional paleontologists. Being a teacher can be an admittedly isolating experience; while I love the profession, there can be days where I find myself starved for adult and professional contact. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that I teach at a small school where I am the only AP Biology teacher. The dinner functions and social events allowed me to interact with some truly fascinating individuals. I lost count of the number of amazing, academic conversations that not only advanced my knowledge of paleontology but also my knowledge of the scientific work going on out in the “real world” (beyond the classroom walls). Today’s students crave authenticity, more so than previous generations I have taught, and my interactions with scientists at NAPC enable me to bring that authenticity to the classroom and enrich their science education. As a result of the NAPC conference, I return to the classroom energized and inspired to be an even better teacher.

Jennifer Broo presents in the Two to Tango symposium at NAPC 2019.


Amateur Spotlight: Lee Cone

Editor’s note: Lee Cone is a member and former president of the Special Friends of the Aurora Fossil Museum. During his time with the FOSSIL Project, Lee was instrumental in coordinating the Belgrade Community Science project. FOSSIL team members interviewed him about his experiences with paleontology. 


Lee Cone
Lee Cone at the Belgrade Mine.

How and when did you first get interested in collecting fossils? How long have you been involved in paleontological research?

That is an interesting question, but I believe that certain people have a natural interest in things relating to the past and that quality comes out at an early age.  I grew up in Augusta, Georgia and was fascinated by Native American artifacts from the local area.  In the early 1960s, I collected with my parents, walked the shoreline of Clarks Hill Reservoir, looked in newly plowed fields, and collected the banks of Brier Creek at a Boy Scout campsite near Waynesboro, GA.  I spent one summer in high school volunteering for the Augusta Museum on a professional archeological Native American mound site on the Savannah River and experienced collecting at a completely different level.  That experience showed me that there is so much more to research than the collected item itself.

Fossils came later, after college, graduate school, and marriage, on a chance visit to Edisto State Park near Charleston in the late 70s.  An exhibit, showing fantastic Pleistocene and Pliocene fossils collected off Edisto Beach, hooked me like nothing else.  Forty years later I still have a kid’s fascination about fossils.

There is a natural by-product of collecting that passively morphs the mind of all collectors, professional or amateur.  It is knowledge.  One can not collect without gaining knowledge along the way.  Professionals actively seek out that knowledge and look for answers to unasked questions, while amateurs ask questions relating to their finds seeking answers from known questions.  There are some amateurs, though, that go beyond the obvious, and wonder why or how, and seek a greater connection to education, learning, and research.  I don’t really consider myself a researcher, but intellectual questions related to observations that I see from specimens that I collect invite further study of the literature.  Through my collecting experiences of Miocene shark teeth from the west coast, there have been observable differences between the east and west coast faunas.  Numerous questions have invited some rudimentary research to try to answer some of those questions.  I have been very fortunate to have had support for my comparative study from one of the UF graduate students, Victor Perez, who continues to encourage me to pursue answers to my questions.


Do you have a favorite collecting location?

Now, you know that you’re not supposed to ask an amateur THAT question, but seriously, I have really gotten hooked on the Cooper River and the massive amount of material that is continually being uncovered as the huge river meanders across the flood plain near Charleston, SC.  Diving is a sport that I love and to combine black water diving with my passion for collecting is the best of both worlds.  Of course, everything on the river bottom is a mixture of formations ranging from present to Oligocene, but probably the greatest contributory layers are the marine-based fauna from the Miocene-Pliocene period.  Six-inch megs are fairly common but can lie next to a mammoth tooth from the Pleistocene.  Every dive is an adrenaline rush, and the excitement of the possibilities never ends.


Do you have a favorite group of animals or do you have a favorite fossil? 

I do love the marine mammals, and the Pliocene whale that I donated to the Mace Brown Museum is easily my favorite.  The baleen whale, consisting of 25 associated vertebrae (lumbar, thoracic, and cervical), ribs, cranium and maybe 30% of the entire skull, consumed 8 years of my life piecing the thousands of fragments back together.  We knew the specimen came out of the Yorktown Formation, and that knowledge gave Dr. Robert Boessenecker, a paleontologist at the Mace Brown Museum, the opportunity to engage in research on the specimen, as well as the assemblage of material that was associated with the site.  The whale is currently on display at the museum and is viewed by so many more people than when it rested on my wife’s dining room table.  I have to thank her for her patience with my OCD side.

Whale fossil.
Pliocene whale on display at the Mace Brown Museum of Natural History.


Can you tell us a little about your experience working with professional scientists?

Searching for fossils in the Nebraska Badlands.

I was fortunate to have had a wonderful Major Professor at the University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography in the early 1970s, who served as a supporter and mentor.  A comment he made, “Never stop asking questions about the established,” is one of those things I never forgot.  After a 35 year career as an educator, I once again found myself working with professionals at the University of Florida, this time in paleontology.  Opportunities afforded to me by myFOSSIL have opened my eyes once again to the excitement of knowledge-based research.  My experience in the Nebraska Badlands with Bruce MacFadden was one of the most life-changing eye-openers for me.  Bruce’s bold challenge with the FOSSIL Project, I believe, has been one of the most important projects in reformatting the value of amateurs in paleontology.  We live in a terribly divisive time, both around the world and politically at home, and there has been divisiveness within the world of paleontology between some amateurs and professionals.  Bridging that gap, demonstrating collaboration, and educating the amateur collector was one of the challenges that Dr. MacFadden bravely took on.  We speak of the need to change the culture of the amateur collector through education of that collector.  Nebraska was that point for me.  It revealed cooperation.  It revealed amateur value to research.  It revealed the importance of site data.  It is up to all amateurs that have been touched by myFOSSIL to continue to educate other amateurs now and in the future.  You will face defiance and objections from some, but the legacy that myFOSSIL has initiated can only be sustained through education by those who know about fossil ethics sharing with those individuals who do not know. Lack of knowledge regarding fossil ethics comes from ignorance more than greed.


Can you describe the relationship among participants in the Belgrade events and how this partnership has developed?

It is fitting that the Belgrade Project occurred toward the end of the NSF Grant of the FOSSIL Project because it clearly demonstrated that “If you build it…..They will come” (Field of Dreams).  Bruce and I collaborated on an idea that was designed to add data to a larger research project which studied mid-Miocene terrestrial mammal fauna.  Sites in Panama, Nebraska, Florida, and eastern North Carolina are included.  We offered an educational collecting opportunity to amateurs for two consecutive years (2018, 2019).  To date, a total of 54 amateurs from the Special Friends of the Aurora Fossil Museum and the North Carolina Fossil Club have joined with 10-12 participating professionals from the University of Florida and the Smithsonian Institution to collect the Belgrade Formation from the Belgrade Mine.  All specimens were donated either to UFL for processing or the Smithsonian, depending on the research at each repository.  All I can say is that the model worked to perfection, with each participant (professional or amateur) gaining equally from the experience.  The camaraderie between everyone was one of equal respect, friendship, and enjoyment in the shared experience.


To learn more, read these related newsletter articles from earlier issues:

North Carolina Fossil Club

Citizen Science at Belgrade

Rare Extinct Land Mammal from Belgrade

2015 Op-Ed Contributed by Lee Cone

Lesson- Supersized Life: Comparing Across Scales

♦ LEARNING GOAL: To give students an intuitive sense and appreciation of how large changes by orders of magnitude are.

♦ AUDIENCE: K-12, Elementary School, Fourth (4th) Grade, Fifth (5th) Grade

♦ TOPICS/THEMES: Math, Paleontology, Fossils, Modeling

♦ INSTRUCTIONS: Click on the link below to access the full lesson plan on

Florida Fossils- Fourth Grade Lesson Plan

♦ SUMMARY: Florida Fossils – This lesson was implemented during a teacher professional development opportunity at the Florida Museum on September 27th, 2017.

♦ AUDIENCE: Fourth (4th) Grade

♦ TOPICS/THEMES: Identification, Fossils, Paleontology, Paleoenvironment, Paleoclimate, Environment, Climate, Scientific Evidence

♦ INSTRUCTIONS: Click on the link below to access the poster of the lesson. Please contact the author with any questions.



5E Lesson Plan- 2015 Moran Science & Children

PowerPoint- Florida Fossils PowerPoint

Student Assessment Sheet-Florida Fossils Student Assessment Sheet