2014 GSA Annual Meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia (19–22 October 2014)

Paper No. 305-14
Presentation Time: 12:15 PM


HENDY, Katherine A.1, LUNDGREN, Lisa M.2, HENDY, Austin J.W.1, MACFADDEN, Bruce J.1, DUNCKEL, Betty A.1, CRIPPEN, Kent J.2 and ELLIS, Shari1, (1)Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida, PO Box 117800, Gainesville, FL 32611, (2)College of Education, School of Teaching and Learning, University of Florida, 2403 Norman Hall, PO Box 117048, Gainesville, FL 32611

The FOSSIL Project (Fostering Opportunities for Synergistic STEM with Informal Learners) is an initiative designed to improve interaction and learning between amateur and professional paleontologists. Historically, amateur paleontologists have made many notable contributions to the field, yet their work often goes unrecognized. Today, the potential of amateurs to contribute to paleontology is limited by the lack of resources enjoyed by professional paleontologists—such as access to field localities, comparative collections, identification resources, and training opportunities. In turn, professional paleontologists are growing increasingly aware of the value of public engagement in science. Increased collaboration between both groups is not only desired, but is also very positive for the paleontological community.

FOSSIL aims to increase the opportunities for informal STEM learning in paleontology, both for amateur paleontologists and the general public, including underserved audiences. A planning workshop was held in conjunction with the 10th North American Paleontological Convention (the first professional meeting for most of the amateur paleontologists who attended), in which potential FOSSIL activities, tools, and resources were discussed. The myFOSSIL web space (www.myfossil.org) will be a portal through which FOSSIL participants can interact, engage in training, attend meetings and workshops, and conduct K12 outreach. We communicate with FOSSIL participants via a newsletter, Facebook, Twitter, email, and in person. In addition, FOSSIL is building upon ongoing national “big data” initiatives that over the next decade will make millions of digitized fossil specimens available to stakeholders, including fossil clubs and amateur paleontologists. Ideally, FOSSIL will enable contributions of personal digitized fossil collections to these nationwide efforts.

FOSSIL is designed to be a web-based community, primarily driven by the participants themselves. We are conducting research to better understand how this approach supports the development of a community of practice and impacts participation in science. The knowledge gained from FOSSIL will enlighten informal and formal STEM educators about how to effectively engage the public with scientific data.