FOSSIL Project Webinar Series: Review of Webinar 1 with Jayson Kowinsky

Editor’s Note: Joyce Drakeford will be writing summaries of each of the four webinars in our fall series.

by Joyce Drakeford (member, Special Friends of the Aurora Fossil Museum)

Lisa Lundgren & Joyce Drakeford
Lisa Lundgren & Joyce Drakeford

On August 31st I had the privilege of joining the first webinar sponsored by the FOSSIL Project and the Paleontological Society. There were as many as 68 participants at one time attending the webinar and I chose to connect via my cell phone with Adobe Connect Mobile app on my Android phone.

Our speaker, Jayson Kowinsky is a high school teacher who also created the website as well as several other websites. The reasons he enjoys fossil hunting include: love of the outdoors, love of nature and history, and the fact that this is one of the few hobbies where amateurs can make contributions to science. Jayson was encouraging about the hobby of fossil collecting because science needs amateurs. Seventy-five percent of donated fossils come from amateurs and they make new discoveries all the time. However, the majority of fossils are quite common and museums do not want them. For instance, a quarry in Ohio where trilobites can be found regularly grind up fossils with aggregate to go into cement.

In the beginning, after being brushed off while trying to identify his finds for around 16 or 17 years, he decided to create his own site. (This was before information was readily available via the internet.) Jayson stated that the internet and social media has positively influenced the fossil hunting culture by helping people find correct information about finds, locating fossil sites, and being able to better collaborate with professionals. The negative impact has been the destruction, by unethical collectors, of some of those sites made available.

What most people don’t realize is that they are about 10 minutes away from a fossil at any given time. To learn how and where to collect fossils, Jayson suggests joining a local fossil club and reading fossil-related books such as Vertebrate Fossils: A Neophyte’s Guide by Frank A. Kocsis, Jr. He also recommends using Google Maps, websites like myFOSSIL, and searching the internet, but to also be aware of websites with misinformation. When using Google Maps please seek permission on private lands and follow all laws and permit regulations for each area.

If you missed Jayson Kowinsky’s webinar, you may watch it at The series will continue with three additional free webinars on September 29, October 19, and November 30.