FOSSIL: DEVELOPING A CYBER-ENABLED COMMUNITY FOR PALEONTOLOGISTS
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.