by Bruce MacFadden
Social paleontology is upon us. The style of communication among our stakeholders is evolving rapidly: When we proposed the FOSSIL project just two-and-a-half years ago, our primary means of communication was by meetings, the e-newsletter and the initial myFOSSIL web site. With the explosion of social media (e.g., Facebook and Twitter) and highly interactive web sites that also host chats, groups, blogs etc., social paleontology is exploding too. We hope that when myFOSSIL 2.0, is released, you will find it a go-to place to communicate and learn about the science of paleontology. We are close to announcing the release of the beta-version of myFOSSIL 2.0 which is designed to be a social space where anyone interested in fossils and paleontology will want to come together, learn and socialize in cyberspace. It’s a new space for social paleontology.
After a national search in which we had more than 100 applicants, we have hired a new FOSSIL project coordinator, Eleanor Gardner. Eleanor has a Master’s degree in geology/paleontology from the University of Georgia, and currently is a geology instructor at the University of Tennessee at Martin. She has diverse interests and experience in paleo education and outreach. We will publish a longer bio about Eleanor once she joins us later this Spring, but for now we are delighted that she will be part of the FOSSIL team. Eleanor’s role as FOSSIL project coordinator will be to run the day-to-day components of the project, keep in contact with our stakeholders, organize travel and participate in talks, workshops and other events that promote the goals of FOSSIL.
The FOSSIL project has added several other new members to its core team. Along with the senior personnel, including me, Kent Crippen, Betty Dunckel, and Shari Ellis, we have Lisa Lundgren, who has filled in admirably as our interim project coordinator, and graduate students Victor Perez, Julia Tejada, with recent help provided by Sharon Holte. We also have hired a postdoctoral research fellow, Dr. Ronny Leder. Read more about Ronny here.
Each year the SW Florida Fossil Society awards two scholarships to deserving students in Florida Paleontology. One is the Mitchell Hope Scholarship and the other is the Bill and Lelia Brayfield scholarship. Mitchell and the Brayfields were long-time members of the SWFFC, avid fossil enthusiasts, and always welcomed us to their homes to see and study their collections. This year the SWFFS has awarded the Mitchell Hope scholarship to to Julia Tejada. A native of Peru, Julia is close to completing her Masters degree under the supervision of Bruce MacFadden at the University of Florida. She is studying the chemistry of Miocene mammal teeth to understand the ancient ecology of the proto-Amazon rainforest of Peru.
The Bill and Leila Brayfield Scholarship has been awared to Kathryn (Katy) Estes-Smargiassi, a 2nd year M.S. student in Museum Studies at the University of Florida. Katy’s research focuses on Scaphopods (tusk shells). Scaphopods have remained understudied in the fossil record and only a few reports of predation on them exists. The aim of Katy’s research is to increase the knowledge of scaphopods in general, and in particular, about the predation record in scaphopod fossils. Katy plans to examine several genera (e.g., Anatalis, Graptacme, Tesseracme) of scaphopods collected from the lower Pinecrest beds (Units 4-9) of the Tamiami Formation (upper Pliocene), from Phase 10 of SMR Aggregates, Inc. in Sarasota, Florida.
We would love to bring greater attention to the various ways fossil clubs and societies support paleontology students (and aspiring ones). If you provide scholarships or other support to students and would like it recognized in this newsletter, please contact the newsletter editor Shari Ellis [email protected].
Upcoming partnerships, activities and events
We are working with several fossil clubs, societies and other stakeholders to host or coordinate educational and authentic learning activities that might be of interest to both professional and amateur paleontologists.
- 10th and 11th April, Iowa City IA: Tiffany Adrain, member of the Mid-American Paleontology Society (MAPS) and collection manager at the University of Iowa Paleontology Repository invited us to participate in the MAPS 37th Annual Fossil Exhibition to be held in Iowa City IA. The Fossil Expo is advertised as the largest show in the world that focuses exclusively on fossils! We will be launching our new website at the meeting, and Ronny Leder and Sean Moran will demonstrate techniques that will help you take the best possible photos of your fossils. Contact: Shari Ellis [email protected]
- 16 May, Orlando FL: We are excited to be invited to join the Florida Fossil Hunters of Orlando Florida to help with the program and activities surrounding the “Women’s Day in Paleontology.” Five members of the FOSSIL project team and graduate students will be participating in this event, which includes talks and display tables. Contact: Cindy Lockner [email protected]
- 22nd and 23rd May, Aurora, NC: We will be joining the Aurora Fossil Festival to coordinate FOSSIL involvement in the Memorial Day festival in North Carolina. We will be bringing speakers, a display table, and demonstrate the myFOSSIL web site that event. Contact: http://aurorafossilfestival.net/
26th and 27th May, Solomons MD: John Nance and Stephen Godfrey and Friends of the Calvert Marine Museum will host a field conference directly following Aurora in Calvert County MD. This will include talks, social events and a field trip to the classic Miocene localities along the Calvert Cliffs. The FOSSIL project has reserved a dozen places for interested members of other fossil clubs to join us. We also will have representation from the Dallas Paleontological Society and the Dry Dredgers (Cincinnati). The FOSSIL project will pay for the meeting registration fee for up to 10 participants from fossil clubs, with an emphasis on representation from diverse clubs. Contact: Victor Perez at [email protected]
- 15th and 16th June, Gainesville FL: In collaboration with the iDigBio national digitization project, FOSSIL is co-hosting a workshop for 3D scanning and printing of fossils for K12 educators and members of fossil clubs at the University of Florida, Florida Museum of Natural History. Spaces are available for 10 members of fossil clubs, with priority given to those who can show that they will translate this experience to K12 education and outreach. Travel and lodging costs are covered. Contact: Claudia Grant [email protected]
- 11th through 14th August, western Nebraska–Badlands Fossil trip. FOSSIL will be hosting a four-day field trip to the Nebraska badlands, which are classic and highly fossiliferous exposures of late Eocene and early Oligocene sediments. Our goal for this field trip is to learn about evolution and extinction as documented from the fossil record, with particular emphasis on how this knowledge might translate to K12 learning. Participants will include amateur and professional paleontologists and K12 educators. We will be staying at the historic Fort Robinson State Park in Crawford NE. FOSSIL will support lodging and meals for 12 participants from fossil clubs. Preference will be given to participation from members of different clubs, particularly from the Midwest and western regions who also have interest in K12 education and outreach. Contact: [email protected]
12th and 13th October. The Dallas Paleontological Society will host a meeting for amateur and professional paleontologists prior to the meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology. This will include talks, social events, and a field trip. Contact: Rocky Manning [email protected]
- 14th through 17th October. The Society of Vertebrate Paleontology meeting will be held in Dallas in collaboration with the Perot Museum. This meeting will have more than 1000 amateur and professional paleontologists from the U.S. and around the world. We are planning presentations about FOSSIL and education. The FOSSIL project will support the registration fees for interested members of fossil clubs in the U.S.
- 1st through 4th November, Baltimore MD. The Geological Society of America meeting, will host more than 5,000 professional geologist, paleontologists, educators, and other stakeholders. The FOSSIL project will be represented in sessions on geological education and outreach.
- 2016. We are working with the Dry Dredgers to host a meeting in Cincinnati, OH with more updates to follow. Contact: Jack Kallmeyer [email protected]
For 2016 onwards, if your fossil club or society is interested in hosting a meeting, field trip or related activity, particularly ones that will promote building a community of amateur and professional fossil enthusiasts and learning about paleontology, please contact us about a possible collaboration at [email protected].