FOSSIL Project Updates

by Bruce MacFadden

Ronny with Karol McQueary (center), President of SCPS and Jennifer Kerr, Vice-President of SCPS
Ronny with Karol McQueary (center), President of SCPS and Jennifer Kerr, Vice-President of SCPS

Dr. Ronny Leder has joined us as a full-time postdoctoral fellow (see his bio in v 2, no. 1). His primary responsibilities include interfacing with the iDigBio digitization project, conducting research in paleontology and promoting education and outreach opportunities for both iDigBio and FOSSIL. In August, Ronny traveled to Los Angeles where he visited with Karol McQueary (President) and Jennifer Morita Kerr (Vice President) of the Southern California Paleontological Society to talk about possible involvement with the FOSSIL Project. We are very excited about Ronny’s visit because we want the FOSSIL Project to become a truly national network, and we need involvement from our friends on the west coast.  Please contact the FOSSIL Project Coordinator, Eleanor Gardner, at [email protected] if you would like Ronny to come talk with your club or society.

Ronny and Eleanor have been hard at work developing online video tutorials for the new myFOSSIL website on topics such as fossil preparation 101 and specimen photography 101. Other videos are planned for topics like documenting and cataloguing fossil collections. We are also pleased to report that both Victor Perez (paleontology content) and Lisa Lundgren (science education content and social media guru) are continuing as UF graduate students on the FOSSIL Project. Ronny and Victor are planning a PaleoBlitz. Stay tuned for more on this, or if you are interested in participating, contact either Ronny at [email protected] or Victor at [email protected]

Since our last report, we have made significant progress with user beta testing of our new and improved myFOSSIL website. As this newsletter is being published, we are launching the new website to the FOSSIL community. For more information, and especially if you are interested in helping us with beta testing, consult http://community.myfossil.org or email [email protected]

New myFOSSIL website
New myFOSSIL website

From August 11-15th, the FOSSIL Project co-sponsored (with the Panama PIRE project) a field conference in the Nebraska Badlands. Two dozen folks participated, including members of the FOSSIL Project team; UF graduate students, Panama PIRE interns, and FLMNH staff; STEM teachers from Oregon, Ohio, Colorado, Texas, South Carolina, and Florida; and members of 6 fossil clubs from Florida, the Carolinas, Maryland, Colorado, and Oregon. During the day we collected fossils and then toured local geologic sites and museums, including the Hudson-Meng Bison site, Agate Fossil Beds National Monument, and the Trailside Museum at Ft. Robinson. In the evenings we developed K-12 lesson plans and outreach materials for use in classrooms and at fossil club events.  These materials were based on the fossils that we found, as well as field-related experiences.  We collected many fossils, including new and important specimens of the fossil horse Mesohippus. The group also got their fill of collecting turtle fossils and found a titanothere skeleton weathering out of the Chadron Formation. This was a magical combination of beautiful scenery, amazing fossils in a classic fossil location, and wonderful people all working together toward the same goal. We are hoping to continue this momentum and are considering hosting another field conference/retreat in the Nebraska Badlands in August 2016. We are grateful to the US Forest Service for issuing a permit to the University of Florida to collect these fossils.

 

Nebraska Badlands Field Trip 2015
Nebraska Badlands Field Trip 2015

Ancient horse mandible
Ancient horse mandible

 

The FOSSIL Project is particularly interested in public outreach and education, including to K-12 STEM teachers and to education chairs of fossil clubs/societies.  Our hope is that FOSSIL-sponsored field experiences, such as the Nebraska Badlands event, will enable science teachers and club education chairs to bring their new knowledge and lesson plans home and thereby inspire youth. We received excellent feedback from the Nebraska Badlands participants; for example:

The week experience in Nebraska provided me an opportunity to learn about the geologic history of the area and how to properly collect fossils. It also gave me the chance to interact with other high school teachers and discuss ways we could incorporate geology and fossils into the classroom. It was a very rewarding experience.  David Ellingson, high school biology teacher at Woodburn High School in Woodburn, OR, and member of the North America Research Group paleontology organization. 

We are continuing to sponsor collaborative activities with fossil clubs for the remainder of 2015 and into 2016. We are partnering with the Dallas Paleontological Society on a meeting to be held October 12-13 immediately prior to the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology annual meeting in Dallas. In November, we are partnering with the Calvert Marine Museum Fossil Club for a joint display table/exhibition booth at the Geological Society of America annual meeting. We are also in the initial planning stages for a mid-year meeting in Cincinnati, to be co-hosted with the Dry Dredgers fossil club.