By Paul Kester, Past NPA President, [email protected]
The Northwest Paleontological Association (NPA) serves the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. Formed in 1994 to bring vocational and professional paleontologists together for mutual benefit and to advance the science of paleontology, the NPA is affiliated with The Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture (burkemuseum.org) – located on the University of Washington campus in Seattle, Washington.
Today the NPA has grown to a membership of over 80 active members. Our membership includes everyone from beginners to professional paleontologists. All members are brought together by a common interest – to understand the paleontological heritage of Washington State and the Pacific Northwest. Membership in the NPA is open to individuals and families who are interested in the science of Paleontology.
The NPA meets at 1:00 pm, the third Sunday of January, March, May, July, September, and November, in the Burke Room at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture. Lectures are given by professionals, members, and graduate students from the Biology Department. Recent talks include:
Animals of the Arizona Petrified Forest in the Earliest Days of the Dinosaurs by Dr. Christian Sidor, Vertebrate Paleontologist Burke Museum
The Life of the Adolescent Paleoindian Female from Hoyo Negro, Quintana Roo Mexico by Jim Chatter, Applied Paleoscience
Workshops and field trips are provided throughout the year. This September, the NPA, will join with the Paleobotany Department of the Burke Museum to conduct a week of field work within the Cretaceous beds of the Methow Valley in northeastern Washington.
The NPA remains close to the Burke Museum assisting on many projects including “Dino Weekend” in March. Other activities include preparing fossils for exhibit, collecting specimens for the museum’s collections, and research. Members have also published research articles in scientific journals.
Members of the NPA assist with The Discoveries in Geosciences (DIG) Field School (digfieldschool.org) a unique, nonprofit professional development program for K–12 teachers created by University of Washington Burke Museum paleontologists. Under the guidance of Dr. Greg Wilson, UW biology professor and Burke Museum Adjunct Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology, the DIG Field School is designed to connect K–12 STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) teachers with scientific research and researchers through ongoing professional development and teaching curricula. Fossils spark student (and teacher!) interest and provide an enjoyable and exciting way to engage with science; including field research methods, critical thinking skills, and the examination of evidence. The DIG Program provides teachers with a hands-on, immersive learning experience through a four-day program at an active field research site in the Hell Creek area of northeastern Montana, as well as year-round educational support. This “real world” professional development is a critical component of increasing teacher effectiveness and student engagement.
NPA members have supported DIG by leading and assisting graduate students who are doing field work. They have also helped with the prepping of vertebrate fossils for display including an Edmontosaurus, a Triceratops, and the recently discovered Tyrannosaurus rex. Members have also sorted microfossils for storage in the Burke collection.
To further interest in paleontology, many NPA members provide outreach to local schools; by participating in science fairs, individual classroom presentations, and leading field trips to fossil localities. Besides bringing age appropriate activities into the classrooms, outreach volunteers give each student fossils that have been donated by the NPA membership throughout the year.
NPA members assisted the Bellevue Park and Recreation Department in managing paleontological resources within the Coal Creek Nature Area. A presentation, “Forest of Stone, Coal Creek Ancient Forests,” was prepared along with the recovery of a large specimen of Metasequoia petrified wood for display in the Lewis Creek Interpretive Center.
NPA members maintain a close working relationship with the Stonerose Interpretive Center, in Republic, WA (stonerosefossil.org). NPA members have served on the Board of Directors, conducted workshops, and assisted with field collection and research.
The association publishes a bimonthly bulletin called The Aturian. The Aturian features articles about fossils and fossil collecting, national and international paleontological findings, association events and activities, and other items of interest to its readers. The NPA also maintains a paleontological library. Items in the library are available for checkout by current members of the organization.
For further information or to check for upcoming events visit the NPA website at nwpaleo.org.
All photos courtesy of Tom Wolken, current NPA President