FOSSIL Project Updates Summer 2016

by Eleanor Gardner and Bruce MacFadden


On May 7, FOSSIL sent six women from UF/FLMNH (Dr. Cristina Robins, Sarah Allen, Eleanor Gardner, Dawn Mitchell, Rachel Narducci, and Lisa Lundgren) to participate in the third annual Women in Paleontology Day at the Orlando Science Center, hosted by the Florida Fossil Hunters club. All of the talks were well-received and over 500 school-age children explored the fascinating world of paleontology. A big thank you goes out to Cindy Lockner for spearheading the successful event. To see pictures from WiP Day, please view our album on Facebook.

Dawn Mitchell and Rachel Narducci show a visitor the tools necessary for fossil prep.

Cindy Lockner explaining how a T. rex skull cast is put together

ps-logo1About three weeks later, we received notification that the paleontology outreach & education grant proposal jointly written by Eleanor Gardner of FOSSIL and Cindy Lockner, Bonnie Cronin, and Russell Brown of the Florida Fossil Hunters was funded by the Paleontological Society. This grant will improve the reach of the next Women in Paleontology Day by (1) securing either in-person or virtual-based talks from a more racially diverse population of female paleontologists; (2) adding Girl Scout badge-earning activities as part of the event; and (3) facilitating girls’ participation in the National Park Service’s “Junior Paleontologist Program.” Funding from the Paleontological Society will be used to help underprivileged girls attend the program.

FOSSIL team members continue to give talks to local fossil clubs. On May 7th Ronny Leder gave a talk entitled “New Techniques for the Classification of Shark Teeth (and the benefits of big database research and digitization of fossils)” at the Tampa Bay Fossil Club, and on May 14th Victor Perez spoke to the Southwest Florida Fossil Society about his research on fossil sharks and rays of Panama. Victor also received the society’s Mitchell Hope scholarship. FOSSIL is always happy to help facilitate talks at club meetings – contact us at [email protected]!

On Friday May 27th and Saturday, May 28th, Bruce MacFadden (FOSSIL Project director) represented FOSSIL at the Aurora Fossil Festival in North Carolina. He first joined many members of fossil clubs in the pre-meeting trip to Belgrade fossil quarry, which has yielded many interesting Cenozoic fossils and continues to be a focal point before the festival. On Saturday, Bruce staffed the FOSSIL display table next to the Smithsonian’s table and helped to identify fossils as well as help with turtle shell anatomy to participants.

Bruce MacFadden at the Aurora Fossil Festival
Bruce MacFadden at the Aurora Fossil Festival


Each year, the FOSSIL Project sponsors a meeting to bring together folks involved in this project and highlight a fossil club or society. This year, the FOSSIL/Dry Dredgers Cincinnati Mini Conference on Paleontology, held June 2-5, was a huge success. Over 80 attendees from across the country participated in the mini conference, with representatives from 12 different fossil clubs, professors and students from 12 different colleges/universities, teachers from 7 different K-12 schools, and professionals from several local museums and government offices. The day-long field trips on Friday and Sunday were outstanding, as were the keynote talk on Friday night by Tony Martin on trace fossils and the mini conference events on Saturday. The townhall discussion on Saturday evening, with Arnie Miller and Steve Holland of the Paleontological Society, generated lots of great ideas about enhanced professional and amateur engagement. To read a more detailed summary of the Cincinnati Mini Conference, please see the Special Bulletin from the Dry Dredgers appended to the end of this newsletter. To see photos from Cincinnati, please see our gallery at

Exploring a Cincinnatian outcrop for Paleozoic fossils

Tony Martin giving keynote talk
Tony Martin giving the keynote talk

Attendees participating in the ‘Biostratinomy and Taphonomy’ breakout session

Days after the FOSSIL team returned from Cincinnati, on June 7th and 8th, FOSSIL team members Bruce MacFadden, Victor Perez, and Lisa Lundgren, plus UF graduate student Sean Moran, led a professional development workshop on using fossils in the classroom. Sixty elementary school teachers from Palm Beach County, Florida, were provided with kits of local fossils to take back with them. Bruce MacFadden  is putting together similar fossil kits for K-12 teachers in Santa Cruz, California, and he needs redwood leaf fossils – if you can help by donating samples, please contact Bruce at [email protected]. Related to the search for fossils for K-12 kits, on June 23rd, Bruce received a donation of eight redwood leaf fossils (but he still needs more!) from Aaron Currier, president of the North America Research Group in Oregon, during a STEM teacher workshop and fossil dig in Gainesville, Florida, sponsored by our sister project PCP-PIRE/GABI-RET. Several other fossil clubs were represented at this workshop, including the Western Interior Paleontological Society, the Dallas Paleontological Society, and the Fossil Club of Lee County.


Aaron Currier donating fossil redwood leaves to Bruce MacFadden Photo © Jeff Gage
Aaron Currier donating fossil redwood leaves to Bruce MacFadden / FLMNH. Photo © Jeff Gage


On Friday June 17th, Bruce visited the Smithsonian fossil vertebrate collections. There he worked with Fred Grady, retired paleontologist from the U. S. National Museum, on fossils from Belgrade, North Carolina. Each year new taxa are added by discoveries and donations and we are approaching a point where a distinct fauna of early Miocene land mammals is coming together. The Belgrade collection now has diagnostic land mammals, including the pig-like entelodont (big tooth in upper left of photo), which indicates an Arikareean land mammal age, about 20 million years old. Arikareean-age mammals take their name from the Arikaree Group sediments and fossils from western Nebraska, and these animals are also known as far north as Canada and as far south as Panama. We would like to publish a paper on the Belgrade fossil mammals, and therefore are interested in learning about additional fossil land mammals that might be in private collections. We are looking for donations (to the Smithsonian) or loans of these materials for scientific research to describe the fauna from this interesting locality.

Fossils from Belgrade, North Carolina
Fossils from Belgrade, North Carolina

Recent FOSSIL publications

MacFadden, B. J., Lundgren, L.M., Dunckel, B.A., Ellis, S., and Crippen., K. 2016. Amateur paleontological societies and fossil clubs, interactions with professional paleontologists, and the rise of 21st century social paleontology in the United States. Palaeontologia Electronica, 19.2.1E. (Open access)

Crippen, K.J., Ellis, S., Dunckel, B.A., Hendy, A.J.W., and MacFadden, B. J. 2016. Seeking shared practice: A juxtaposition of the attributes and activities of organized fossil groups with those of professional paleontology. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 10.1007/s10956-016-9627-3.


Upcoming Events

August 31, online – The first FOSSIL webinar will take place in the evening on Wednesday, August 31, and our speaker will be The Fossil Guy, Jayson Kowinsky. Webinars are online videoconferences typically presenting a topic by a leader, and with real-time participation from participants. There will be no charge to attend the webinars and you can pick and choose which ones you want to attend. We are still finalizing the details for the first few webinars; we’ll keep everyone updated via social media and A schedule will be distributed after all of the Fall webinar dates are determined. Questions? Contact [email protected].


September 23, 1-5pm, Denver, CO – FOSSIL-sponsored short course held prior to the Geological Society of America Annual Meeting taking place Sept 25-28.

The FOSSIL Project plans to offer a half-day short course called “Facilitating effective STEM learning and public engagement in paleontology” prior to national GSA 2016.  This short course is intended for professionals (including graduate students), amateurs, and K-12 teachers.  We will explore best practices for engaging both formal and informal STEM learners with paleontological data.  Topics to be covered include: (1) contributing to and benefiting from digitization efforts of fossil collections; (2) incorporating fossils into the design of curricula that satisfy the Next Generation Science Standards; (3) fostering engagement and learning by amateurs; and (4) using social media to mobilize the community.  Laptops are required and digital cameras are recommended. Find out more and register before August 22 at

Scholarship opportunity! Ten (10) fossil club members will receive reimbursement funding to attend both the short course *and* the four-day GSA meeting. Please contact [email protected] for more details.

And don’t forget, if you want to present research at GSA this year, the abstract deadline is July 12.


March 19-21, 2017, Pittsburgh, PA – Theme session at joint Northeast / North-Central Geological Society of America regional meeting.

We have submitted a proposal for a theme session (both oral and poster) to the organizers of the 2017 NE/NC GSA regional meeting taking place in Pittsburgh next March. Hopefully our proposal will be accepted and then we can begin planning a great session featuring both amateurs and professionals in paleontology.


TBA – We are still planning a fossil preparation PaleoBlitz for later this year. Ronny Leder, the FOSSIL Project’s preparation guru, just welcomed a new baby boy on June 18th so plans for the PaleoBlitz are understandably slow-going at the moment!


FOSSIL Evaluation

Evaluation is fundamental to understanding the progress and success of projects such as FOSSIL to know if we are meeting our goals and objectives. Throughout the months of April – June, the FOSSIL team worked closely with our project’s external evaluator, Kate Haley Goldman, to craft a “summative” survey. This survey will help us to achieve a better understanding of fossil clubs, and getting feedback from club members is a key aspect of the FOSSIL Project having funding. The National Science Foundation wants to know more about how to better support the community, and we are required to get community feedback and evaluations as part of the funding. Thus, the survey is an important part of being able to support future FOSSIL meetings, the myFOSSIL website, and much more. If you receive a survey email (it would come from Kate), please fill it out – it would be of enormous help to us and would show support for the contributions of amateurs. If you have any questions about the summative survey, please contact the project coordinator, Eleanor Gardner, at [email protected] or our evaluator at [email protected].