By Bruce MacFadden
The FOSSIL project is just completing its first of the four years of funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF). We have been busy both with recent activities and plans for the upcoming year. As examples of recent activities, FOSSIL folks have given talks at diverse venues, including the North America Research Group (NARG), Oregon (Manchester), The Fossil Club of Lee County, Florida (Hendy & Hendy), the Memorial Day Fossil Festival in Aurora, North Carolina and Friends of the Calvert Marine Museum in Solomons, Maryland (MacFadden).
The FOSSIL project is also well represented at national professional meetings, including the National Association of Research in Science Teaching (NARST) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylania (Crippen), NSF Informal STEM Summit in Washington DC (MacFadden) and soon to be at the Geological Society of America in Vancouver, Canada (A. Hendy, Lundgren) and Association of Science and Technology Centers (ASTC) in Raleigh, North Carolina (MacFadden).
At the NSF Summit, Bruce co-led a panel about communication with scientists and participated in a workshop on the importance of social media in networked communities. Related to the latter, we are finding that the social media is becoming increasingly more important in our FOSSIL community. In fact, some of the discussion at the STEM Summit workshop focused on how social media is segmenting audience communication, i.e., some participants using Facebook receive rapid communication, whereas others that wait for a newsletter will have less rapid communication; and the latter is of particular importance with time-sensitive activities. The FOSSIL project has been discussing how we might be able to better understand this communication dynamic and how what we learn might inform other learning communities with segmented audiences.
There are many exciting opportunities on the horizon for the next year. We are currently working on a new FOSSIL collaborative web site, which will be launched soon. We will be participating in two fossil exhibits to be featured at the Florida Museum of Natural History, Megalodon and then A T. rex named Sue. We are looking for a venue for the 2015 Annual ALL hands meeting, which will be focused on “Celebrating Collections in the 21st century.” At that meeting we will partner with the iDigBio project to promote the national digitization of natural history collections.
We also are planning a three-day field trip to the Nebraska badlands during the second week of August, co-sponsored with the Panama PIRE project. We will have about 15 spaces for FOSSIL participants and will learn together about the rich paleontology of this region, as well as collect fossils for K12 educational kits. We look forward to your ideas and possible participation in these activities.