FOSSIL Project Updates Fall 2016

by Eleanor E. Gardner and Bruce J. MacFadden

Personnel Updates

Dr. Ronny Leder
Dr. Ronny Leder
Lisa Lundgren
Lisa Lundgren

We are delighted to announce that Dr. Ronny Maik Leder has been appointed the Director of the Naturkundemuseum Leipzig (Natural History Museum of Leipzig), located in his hometown in Germany. He will start as Director on December 1, 2016. In his new position, Ronny will supervise a staff of two dozen and be charged with re-inventing the museum from the ground up. We have mixed feelings because, although we are happy for Ronny to have his “dream job,” we will lose an active member of the FOSSIL Project team. As a postdoc on the project, Ronny has helped in so many ways to advance our objectives and is a charismatic and valued member of the team. We wish Ronny and his family the very best, and to him – great success in this new venture in his professional career. We also hope that he will, as time permits (we realize he will be very busy!), remain connected to FOSSIL and link us with amateur clubs and societies in Germany. Congratulations, Ronny!

We are additionally happy to announce that in August, Lisa Lundgren passed her PhD qualifying exams. Lisa is a science education graduate student at the UF College of Education and FOSSIL’s social media specialist. Now officially a PhD candidate, her research in informal science education explores how people learn on social media and how to design social media messaging to enhance learning. Congratulations, Lisa!

FOSSIL Webinar Series

The FOSSIL Project’s first monthly webinar series, “Fundamentals of Fossils,” has gotten off to a great start. For those who haven’t yet heard of our webinar series, it is free, open to anyone interested in fossils and paleontology, and co-sponsored by the Paleontological Society as well as the iDigBio project at the University of Florida. Participants do not need to be registered as a myFOSSIL community member, although additional benefits accrue to our members (see below).

On August 31st, high school teacher and amateur paleontologist Jayson Kowinsky (The Fossil Guy, presented on “Fossil Collecting: Where, How, & When to Find Fossils.” For more detailed information about Jayson’s webinar, please see Joyce Drakeford’s article in this newsletter. On September 29th, FOSSIL project director and professor/curator Bruce MacFadden presented on “Field Notes 101.” Each hour-long webinar was delivered via the AdobeConnect online platform that provides a venue for presentations and real-time chats and Q&As. Both webinars had about 70 participants, and we look forward to more attendees joining us for the October and November webinars.

Webinar #1 with Jayson Kowinsky
Webinar #1 with Jayson Kowinsky

The two remaining webinars in our four-part introductory series will be hosted at and will feature:

  • Oct 19: Excavating Fossils with Dava Butler of Montana State
  • Nov 30: Fossil Prep Basics with Rachel Narducci of UF/FLMNH

We are finding out that learners of all ages are attending the webinars. Recent feedback from Stephanie Killingsworth, a middle-school teacher from Palm Beach County, stated:

“I want to send a thank you for allowing my students to participate.  They didn’t even know what a webinar was until a couple of weeks ago.  They absolutely loved interacting and asking questions.  This will be all the talk in class tomorrow!  ….thanks again for being so inclusive of the novices and inviting new members into the paleo world.”

The FOSSIL Project will be providing a Certificate of Completion for those members of the myFOSSIL community who attend (or watch recordings of) all four webinars in the series. Additionally, educators can earn CEUs for attending all sessions; contact Eleanor at [email protected] for more information on how to register for CEUs.

If you are interested in any of these webinars, but missed one or two in real-time, don’t worry because they are recorded and can be accessed in the Resources section of the myFOSSIL website at:

Building on this initial interest, we have decided to move forward with planning for a second series of webinars during the first half of 2017. This series will be focused on the theme of “Women in Paleontology,” and will feature speakers with diverse backgrounds and professional paths. As some of the clubs (e.g., Florida Fossil Hunters) have done via in-person events, we are excited to be able to promote this important topic through our webinar series. The webinars provide an excellent opportunity for participation regardless of a person’s location as long they can connected to the internet.

We also have a webinar forum on our website—for discussion, ideas, or other feedback, in the Upcoming Opportunities forum: Please send us your ideas and feedback!


The FOSSIL Project team was very busy at the annual national meeting of the Geological Society of America in Denver, CO. On September 23rd, FOSSIL hosted a 4-hour short course that presented a hands-on program covering four “case studies” on (1) the value of metadata, (2) digitization, (3) citizen science (and utilizing social media), and (4) NGSS-aligned paleontology themed lesson plans. Sixteen participants interested in paleontological outreach and education – ranging from amateur paleontologists to PhD students to tenured professors – attended the short course. The course was fast-paced and accidentally had no bathroom breaks (!), but all the participants appeared to have had a good time and learned something new. Feedback about the course and the myFOSSIL website was positive and encouraging, and we plan to hold similar ‘short courses’ at other conferences in the future.

Shortcourse at GSA
Short course at GSA

Just like at last year’s national GSA meeting, FOSSIL had a booth in the huge exhibit hall as part of “Paleo Alley,” where all the booths of paleontology-focused organizations are located. We were thrilled that our local partner for this year’s booth was the Western Interior Paleontological Society. Many thanks to WIPS members Susan Passmore, Paul Belanger, and Christian Thurner for helping to ‘man’ the booth from September 25th-28th and, of course, for interacting with LOTS of visitors! We are very happy to report that over 70 people at the conference registered for the myFOSSIL community website, and we made connections with folks at a variety of museums, institutions, universities, and fossil clubs. A huge shout-out also goes to our enthusiastic student volunteer, Megan Johnston, who is studying at the University of Colorado-Denver. We look forward to next year’s meeting in Seattle, WA!


The FOSSIL Project team gave a number of research presentations at the GSA meeting, which were all well received. Bruce MacFadden gave a talk on the benefit of international paleontological research experiences for K-12 STEM teachers; Victor Perez, Ronny Leder, and Lisa Lundgren presented a poster on the FOSSIL Project’s first ‘PaleoBlitz’ event; Ronny and Victor also presented a separate poster about a new method for estimating body length of C. megalodon; and Eleanor Gardner presented a poster on preservation trends in the avian fossil record. Data presented in the PaleoBlitz poster are part of a larger manuscript which will soon be submitted for publication at a peer-reviewed journal; we hope it will appear in print and online within the next year.

Victor Perez at his poster session
Victor Perez at his poster session

myFOSSIL Website Upgrades

Our web development partners, Atmosphere Apps, have been working hard to continue improving the myFOSSIL website. One major item that we are looking forward to is the merging of the and sites into one combined website. The web address for this combination site will be (note that, after the merge takes place, if you’ve bookmarked, it will automatically point you to the correct web address). Merging our sites into one will reduce confusion and increase participation in our online paleontological community. The team at Atmosphere Apps have also prepared a re-design of the myFOSSIL landing page, the activity feed (or homepage), and the ‘Resources’ section of the site; these upgrades will make the site more welcoming, interactive, and functional. Since we’ve recently seen a jump in the number of member registrations, fossils added to the gallery, and forum posts, we are very excited to make our website even more user-friendly. Check back at after October 1st to see the improvements!

Selected Club Updates

Paul Roth, president of the Florida Paleontological Society, recently informed the FOSSIL Project that this year’s Junior Paleontologist fossil kits were shipped to the following national parks/monuments: Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument (NV), Waco Mammoth National Monument (TX), and Channel Islands National Park (CA). The kits are used in conjunction with the National Park Service’s Junior Paleontologist Ranger Program and include fossils, replicas, books, and activities. Fossil clubs/societies from across the state of Florida (and beyond!) donate specimens and other materials for these educational fossil kits, and the demand continues to grow for more kits at additional national parks. Check out to learn about what kinds of items are needed for next year’s kits.

Junior Paleontologist Kit
Junior Paleontologist Kit

On September 10th, the Florida Fossil Hunters hosted a Fossil Fest at the Orlando Science Center where FFH members displayed fossils, field journals, and provided fun hands-on activities for families. Cindy Lockner set up a station for kids to find and document fossils buried in a sandbox. She explained the importance of documenting their work and had the children write notes/draw in a field journal. Cindy was pleased to see that even though some of the children weren’t yet old enough to write, they were anxious to draw their findings!

Florida Fossil Hunters 'Fossil Fest' at the Orlando Science Center
Florida Fossil Hunters ‘Fossil Fest’ at the Orlando Science Center

The FOSSIL Project funded airfare for Dr. Sandra Carlson of UC-Davis (and past-president of the Paleontological Society) to speak at the Southern California Paleontological Society in early October. We look forward to a report on Dr. Carlson’s visit from the vice president of the SoCal society, to be published in the December edition of our newsletter.

Upcoming Events

October 1, 2016 – National Fossil Day at the South Florida Museum in Bradenton, FL. The FOSSIL Project is sending Victor Perez and Michelle Barboza (Bruce’s new graduate student) to host a display table and paleontological activities for kids. Stay tuned to our social media accounts for live updates from this event.

October 19, 2016 – Third webinar in the FOSSIL series, hosted by Dava Butler of Montana State University. Dava will present on fossil excavation best practices, ethical collecting, and other interesting topics relevant to the paleontological community. 7-8pm Eastern time.

October 22, 2016 – ‘Pop-Up’ on Fossil Sharks at the Florida Museum of Natural History. Victor Perez from the FOSSIL Project will help educate visitors about fossil sharks from 11am – 3pm. Enjoy a unique, participatory experience between the Florida Museum and the community. We need YOU to make it happen. All ages are welcome. Come prepared for learning and fun! For more information, contact Dr. Betty Dunckel, [email protected] or 352-273-2088.

November 30, 2016 – Fourth webinar in the FOSSIL series, hosted by Rachel Narducci of the Florida Museum of Natural History. Rachel will present upon the basics of fossil preparation – including tools, adhesives, and techniques. 7-8pm Eastern time.

January 3, 2017 – Abstract submission deadline for inclusion in the FOSSIL-sponsored theme session at the 2017 GSA Joint Section (Northeastern and North-Central) Meeting. In order to present a talk or poster in our special theme session entitled “FOSSIL Collaborations: Enhancing Paleontology through Professional and Amateur Partnerships,” you must write up a short abstract that gives the basic ‘who,’ ‘what,’ and ‘why’ of your presentation. Need help crafting an abstract? Contact Eleanor at [email protected].

March 19-21, 2017 – GSA Joint Section (Northeastern and North-Central) Meeting in Pittsburgh, PA. This promises to be a fun regional GSA meeting where amateurs and professionals can network and build relationships. The FOSSIL Project is hosting a special theme session (see title above) at this meeting, and co-organizers of the session include Cathy Young of the Delaware Valley Paleontological Society, Jayson Kowinsky of, and Daniel Krisher of the Rochester Academy of Science – Fossil Section. The session’s description is as follows: “Partnerships between professional and amateur paleontologists have always been important for growth within the field of paleontology.  Despite a push for increased recognition and acknowledgement of amateurs, their efforts are still often overlooked or forgotten.  Since 2014, the FOSSIL Project has facilitated enhanced communication, networking, and collaboration among amateur and professional paleontologists.  This session would provide a forum for the paleontological community to showcase and discuss partnerships that produce high-quality research, educational initiatives, and/or outreach endeavors.” Preliminary information on the meeting can be found at If you’d like to present in the special theme session (or simply attend), please contact Eleanor at [email protected] for more details.