FOSSIL Project Updates Summer 2019

FOSSIL Education Team Conference Recap by Rich Bex

Rich at SITE this year!

This past Spring, I had the opportunity to attend three conferences to present on research related to myFOSSIL and gain feedback on the myFOSSIL App.  During March 13th-March 15th, I  spent time at the Citizen Science Conference (CitSci) in Raleigh, NC. The CitSci 2019 national conference brought together researchers, practitioners, and participants with an interest in citizen science to share their ideas and practices. While at the conference, I was able to meet with experts involved in a variety of mobile citizen science projects with the goal of using their feedback and guide future updates to the myFOSSIL app.

Shortly after the CitSci Conference, I attended the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education (SITE) 2019 Conference in Las Vegas, NV.  This conference took place  March 18th-22nd.   I presented a paper on the use and usability of the myFOSSIL App. The study involved testing the app with high school students and a group of K-12 teachers. Findings from the study revealed that the App was perceived to be usable and users showed high satisfaction. The paper can be found in the proceedings for the Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference (https://www.learntechlib.org/primary/p/207762/)

Finally, from March 31st-April 3rd, I attended the National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST) 2019 Conference in Baltimore, MD. The NARST Conference focuses on the improvement of science teaching and learning through research. At the conference, I was joined by former FOSSIL Team member, Dr. Lisa Lundgren. Our presentation focused on the forms of social paleontological practices within the myFOSSIL website.

Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections by Jen Bauer

Life size pterosaur at the Field Museum!

I attended SPNHC as representative of the FOSSIL Project team to share our recent advancements in the myFOSSIL eMuseum. In a session dedicated to small museum collections, I shared information about the eMuseum upload process, curation team, and underlying WordPress plugins. The talk was only 15 minutes but I encouraged the audience members to check out the mobile app and come talk to me about the plugins and their utility for small natural history collections. The following day, I participated in an Education Share Fair hosted by iDigBio’s education and outreach coordinator, Molly Phillips. I led a round table discussion with about 10 museum professionals about how myFOSSIL could benefit them and how we could form partnerships into the future. Most valuable from this discussion was the idea that people could have a badge or marker indicating they were interested in donating their specimens to a physical museum collection when they are no longer able to care for them so that these valuable scientific items can be safely stored for others to access in decades to come.

 

 

 

North American Paleontological Convention by Jen Bauer

Many members of the FOSSIL Project team traveled to Riverside, California to participate in NAPC. FOSSIL also sponsored the travel for a number of  myFOSSIL community members. In total, our group submitted over 29 abstracts! The FOSSIL Symposium was a great success and had a non-traditional set up with four themes. Each theme had a spark that was meant to start the conversation, a panel discussion, followed by a total audience discussion. Each 45-minute block had a different theme where we could discuss different aspects of the project. Tune in to the final FOSSIL newsletter this fall to get all of the NAPC details!

Belgrade 2019 by Victor Perez & Fauve Wilson

We had another successful trip to the Belgrade Quarry, with more than 40 participants from the Special Friends of the Aurora Museum, North Carolina Fossil Club, Smithsonian, and Florida Museum of Natural History. The spoil piles set aside by the mine operators survived the heavy rains over the last year and accumulated some of the coarser material at the surface. This allowed for very successful surface collecting, followed by some dry screening. There were two notable finds this year: a protoceratid tooth (extinct deer-like herbivore) and a Notorynchus tooth (cow shark). Neither of these taxa were found during last year’s trip, so it was exciting to add them to our taxonomic list. We also received a few interesting donations. Eric Sadorf sieved matrix from last year’s trip and found a Mustelus tooth (smooth-hound shark) and a Gymnura tooth (butterfly ray), which we had not yet found at Belgrade. Progress continues back in the lab as we continue to process matrix and sort through all the new material collected this year!

 

Dave Bohaska, vertebrate paleontology collections manager at the Smithsonian, provides a site overview.

Participants spread out and scour the mounds for new fossil discoveries.

Sean Moran, PhD student from the Florida Museum of Natural History, dry sifting.

Southwest Florida Fossil Society by Michael Ziegler 

Jim Davis (Vice President of SFFS, left) and Michael Ziegler (right)

On June 8th I had the pleasure of visiting the Southwest Florida Fossil Society (SFFS) in Punta Gorda, Florida. As the 2019 Mitchell Hope Scholarship Award recipient, the SFFS invited me to be a guest speaker during their monthly meeting. After being introduced to the society members, I presented on some aspects of my thesis research which aims to produce a paleoenvironmental site formation analysis of the local Montbrook Fossil Site. During the talk, SFFS members had numerous productive and thought-provoking questions that led me to view my analysis from a different prospective. Moreover, presenting to an audience of fossil enthusiasts helped me further refine the quality of my science communications skills when delivering research. After the meeting, one of the youngest SFFS members disclosed to me that she was interested in pursuing an education in natural sciences when she goes to college. Her interest initiated a discussion on career paths facilitated by the various experiences of her fellow SFFS members and myself. All in all, I am now honored to be part of the SFFS community and excited to see many of the members at Montbrook this upcoming field season!

eMuseum Updates by Jen Bauer

At NAPC, I met with a team of volunteer assistant curators who will assist with curating the specimens that are uploaded to the eMuseum. Every time someone uploads a specimen through the app or website it heads to a queue where the curators can access it. Each curator has site privileges that allow them to correct any taxonomic or time period typos they find in the specimen data. The curators will use their expert knowledge to help improve the quality of data uploaded to the museum. All specimens uploaded to the website will be examined by the curation team and subsequently curated. If the data are of a high caliber the specimen will be marked as ‘Research Grade’ and will be sent to iDigBio to be accessible to other researchers and the public. The team has started curating and we are working to get through the backlog of specimens on the website. So expect comments from the team working through all of the specimens on the website!

Other minor updates such as a global search bar, currently only on the home page but will soon be accessible from anywhere on the site. Soon you will be able to export a CSV file with your entire specimen collection from the website and create specimen labels to print out.

App Updates by Jen Bauer & Rich Bex

The Education and Outreach group has been very active in the myFOSSIL mobile app these past few months. Check it out on the app or on the web-based platform to see what members of the community are involved in! There is a new group in the app dedicated to fossils of Coastal N.C. This group was created a few months ago and has 21 members! Join in the discussion in the app or on the myFOSSIL website!

The myFOSSIL mobile app now has 359 total active users with about 31 active users per day over the past month. Users are spending about 5 minutes on the app, which is greater than many comparable social media platforms.

Updates are coming to the mobile app! This includes features such as moving the crop as you upload a photo and pinch and zoom to examine photos in greater detail.

Team Updates by Jen Bauer

The FOSSIL Project NSF funding will conclude at the end of September 2019. This will be our last regular newsletter issue as our last issue will be sourced from our community members that participated in the NAPC FOSSIL events this past June. If you are interested in contributing an article for the last issue please reach out to us!

Mary Jane Hughes has graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Public Relations from the College of Journalism and Communication here at the University of Florida and is moving on from the FOSSIL Project team. Mary Jane has grown our Instagram community and helped the FOSSIL team cater their language, graphics, and content to a broad audience. She will be moving to Daegu, South Korea by the beginning of September to begin her new journey as an educator teaching English.

 

Graduation conformation with speaker James Patterson on May 3, 2019.  

Mary Jane attending the SE GSA conference in March of 2019 to present on her research.