Project Updates Fall 2017

By Bruce MacFadden and Sadie Mills

Transitions and New Members of the FOSSIL Project Team

Eleanor Gardner

We wish Eleanor Gardner the best in her new position as Outreach & Engagement Coordinator at the University of Kansas Biodiversity Institute & Natural History Museum. Eleanor, who departed Gainesville in August, left the FOSSIL Project on solid ground after developing an extensive project management manual and tidying up many loose ends. During her time on the project she was the primary contact with many of our members. We thank Eleanor for everything that she did for FOSSIL during her almost two and a half years with us. We are certain that Eleanor will prosper in Kansas, and we look forward to continued collaborations with her.

About the FOSSIL Project, Eleanor noted: “I gained a lot, both personally and professionally, by working with such a vibrant community of amateur and professional paleontologists.”  She remains connected to the community through the myFOSSIL website and looks forward to seeing some FOSSIL friends at GSA 2017 in Seattle!

Sadie Mills, Project Coordinator

Sadie Mills

Sadie, who started last month, is responsible for the myriad of day-to-day activities that keep the project moving in the right direction. She also serves as a liaison to clubs and their members.

A native of Arizona, Sadie received her B.S. in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology and B.A. in Anthropology from the University of Arizona. She more recently completed her M.S. in Environmental Studies at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Prior to completing her graduate studies, Sadie worked as an environmental educator in Maryland, Georgia, and Virginia. Sadie is particularly interested in improving science literacy, and is excited to help the FOSSIL Project build a science community focused on paleontology.

About the FOSSIL Project, Sadie notes: “It is wonderful to see professional and amateur paleontologists working together, and I am looking forward to learning from both groups over the coming year!”


Richard Bex, Graduate Assistant

Richard Bex

As a graduate assistant, Rich conducts social media research related to the community of practice between amateur and professional paleontologists. Rich earned his B.A. in Environmental Geoscience at West Virginia University, his M.Ed. in Secondary Education at Lehigh University, and is currently pursuing his PhD in Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Florida. Prior to arriving at UF, Rich taught Earth & Environmental Science and Astronomy at Mooresville High School in Mooresville, North Carolina.

Rich has always loved geology, and is passionate about communicating, teaching, and learning about the different fields within Earth Science. He has enjoyed working with FOSSIL because it has incorporated all of these interests. For his PhD, Rich aspires to do research in authentic inquiry, as well as in state-of-the-art technology and visualization resources specifically related to Earth & Space Science. Ultimately, Rich aspires to work as a professor in Science Education to help improve Geoscience education and prepare teachers to use modern methods of teaching Earth & Space Science.

Jeanette Pirlo, Interim Project Coordinator and Graduate Assistant

Jeanette Pirlo

Jeanette has been working on various projects in the museum over the past year, and serves as Bruce MacFadden’s Research Assistant. She also has been actively involved with many aspects of FOSSIL. Jeanette served as the Interim Project Coordinator in August 2017 after Eleanor left and before Sadie started in the position.

Currently a PhD student in the University of Florida’s Biology Department working with Dr. MacFadden, Jeanette is a native of California. She received her B.S. in Marine Biology from the University of California Santa Cruz (Go Slugs!). As an undergraduate, she assisted in math instruction at Pajaro Valley High School, California. Over the past year at Florida she has been involved in several paleo-related activities, including the 2016 Panama GABI trip, and in 2017 the Aurora Fossil Festival, Ghost Ranch New Mexico GABI Summit, and the Nebraska badlands trip. She also planned and executed the 2017 FOSSILs4Teachers! professional development in August. Her primary paleo interests are fossil sharks, though she is relatively new to the field and is still open to other interesting projects. Jeanette currently is working with Bruce on digitizing fossils from Belgrade, North Carolina. Jeanette is also very interested in public outreach and is particularly passionate about getting fossils into children’s hospitals.

MacKenzie Smith

MacKenzie Smith, Graduate Assistant

In his role as a graduate assistant, MacKenzie helps create content for FOSSIL social media, moderates two forums on myFOSSIL, and is developing a new YouTube series on fossil collecting. Read more in his article for this issue that describes his background and research interests in paleobotany.

Michael Le, Social Media Intern

As the FOSSIL Project’s Social Media Intern, Michael creates engaging content for FOSSIL’s Facebook and Twitter audiences. He is also helping FOSSIL develop an Instagram account, and is assisting with the production of new FOSSIL YouTube videos.

Originally from Sunrise, Florida, Michael is an undergraduate marketing major at the University of Florida. He thinks the FOSSIL mission of promoting learning within a community of both professionals and amateurs is a noble cause, and has enjoyed learning more about the profession and hobby of paleontology. After he graduates, Michael hopes to work within the clothing industry as a content creator or social media manager. He believes his work with FOSSIL is helping him build important skills for his future career.

Michael Le

Activities and Upcoming Events

Listed below are activities that we have recently completed, or that are currently scheduled until the end of 2017. Please also consult our FOSSIL event calendar at:

August 13 – 18, Nebraska fossil collecting

Nebraska Badlands Trip

A dozen members of the Florida Museum staff, graduate students, and citizen scientist volunteers from our vertebrate paleontology division collected more than 500 specimens from the Nebraska badlands north of Crawford, Nebraska. We collected from the White River sequence, including the Chadron and Brule formations on U.S. Forest Service lands under the auspices of a permit issued to the Florida Museum. UF graduate student Sean Moran used this field time to further develop plans for his PhD project. The fossils collected during this trip are safely back in the lab; they are currently being cleaned and identified as part of the curation process.

FOSSIL Roadshow Webinar with Brenda Hunda

September 20, FOSSIL Roadshow Webinar I– Trilobites

We hosted the first of this five-part series in partnership with the Dry Dredgers Fossil Club of Cincinnati, Ohio and myFOSSIL member Matthew Croxton of Fort Myers, Florida. Our expert for this webinar was Dr. Brenda Hunda of the Cincinnati Museum Center. This hour-long, online event was attended by more than 50 participants, including a class from the Raymond Alf Museum in California and students from Matthew Croxton’s middle school science classes. Recordings of our webinars are  available on myFOSSIL at

October 19 (Thursday, note day change), FOSSIL Roadshow Webinar II

The second episode of the FOSSIL Roadshow webinar series will take place in Dallas, Texas. Dr. Merlynd Nestell and the Dallas Paleontological Society will share Pennsylvanian Fossils of North Texas.

October 21 – 25, Geological Society of America Annual Meeting, Seattle

Several FOSSIL-related events and activities are planned for this national, professional GSA meeting. In partnership with the Northwest Paleontological Association, we will be hosting a FOSSIL booth in the Exhibitors Hall. We are also co-sponsoring travel for some presenters in the following symposium, which is being co-organized by Eleanor Gardner.

Session T64. Citizen Science in Paleontology: Harnessing Public Interest to Advance Research and STEM Education (Sunday am, October 22), organized by Laura C. Soul, Terry A. Gates, and Eleanor E. Gardner. At this symposium, “paleontologists, educators, and non-academic contributors will discuss best practices for citizen science as a viable means to achieve high quality paleontological research, and to create a valuable experience for citizens that facilitates STEM learning” (taken from the meeting program).

November 3 – 4, iDigBio Summit and National Fossil Day, Gainesville

On Friday evening, November 3rd (4:30 pm to 6:00 pm), the FOSSIL Project will sponsor an open, public lecture, “The Digital Atlas of Ancient Life,” by Jonathan Hendricks of The Paleontological Research Institute. Dr. Hendricks is a Paleontological Society Distinguished Lecturer and his talk is being co-sponsored by the iDigBio project. Fossil club and society members are invited to attend this lecture in-person at the Harn Museum of Art in the University of Florida Cultural Center. Those unable to attend will be able to view a recording of the lecture, which will be posted under the Resources tab of the myFOSSIL website.

On Saturday, November 4th (10:00 am to 3:00 pm), the Florida Museum will be celebrating National Fossil Day. This free, public event will bring together fossil clubs and enthusiasts from around Florida. There will be many family-friendly activities including a fossil dig pit and microfossil screen wash activity

The events listed above are, to the best of our efforts, confirmed. In addition, we are also hoping to do the following activities to round out this year’s schedule.

November 15, FOSSIL Roadshow Webinar III

Location and theme coming soon!

December, TBD, FOSSIL Roadshow Webinar IV

Location and theme coming soon!

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