Paper No. 36-6
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-5:30 PM
FOSSILBLITZ! EXTENDING THE BIOBLITZ CONCEPT TO DEEP TIME
BioBlitz events involve intense, usually time-limited, surveys of modern ecosystems undertaken by scientists and volunteers in a joint effort to document local biodiversity. This is used as a vehicle to engage members of the public in issues pertaining to their local environment, as well as a means of employing ‘citizen science’ to efficiently gather large quantities of data. The concept is globally successful with a demonstrable 20-year track record in engaging the public in studies of living biodiversity. As part of the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council’s 50th Anniversary Summer of Science, we received funding to extend this concept to deep time as a means of engaging the general public with past biodiversity. Our ‘Jurassic FossilBlitz’ brought together paleontologists and members of the general public of all ages for a 6-hour race against the tide to find, count and record the Early Jurassic marine fossils preserved on the rocky foreshore southwest of Lyme Regis, England. The event targeted a short sequence through the Blue Lias Formation, which in total spans the entire Hettangian recovery and re-establishment of normal marine ecosystems after the Late Triassic global warming and extinction event. The fossiliferous beds are exposed as a series of extensive, easily accessible, horizontal bedding planes on the foreshore. The event involved cooperation between various different organisations including Natural England and the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site, who manage the locality. Each individual or family group was allocated a quadrat and simple instructions to set the quadrat down randomly and to count the different fossils they see within it, using an identification chart. Experts were on hand to help with identifications, and to answer questions. Social media (primarily twitter) was used during the event, and to disseminate results afterwards. Some 200 individuals participated, contributing 87 quadrats and ca. 1500 fossil counts. The FossilBlitz was primarily about outreach and engagement, by allowing members of the public to use genuine methods to collect quantitative fossil data thus gaining an appreciation of how fossils can be used to reconstruct changes through time. However, the data may also have some real scientific value in further refining the ranges of key fossil species.