Paper No. 13-5
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-5:30 PM
USING OUTREACH AS A BRIDGE BETWEEN PROFESSIONAL PALEONTOLOGISTS AND THE GENERAL PUBLIC
Our organization was founded with ambitious goals - hence, the name, Florida Prehistorical Museum, Inc. dba/ Florida Fossil Hunters. Early members shared their passion for paleontology and their private collections at nature-themed events and schools. We encouraged members to learn more by inviting knowledgeable speakers, and for a period of years, conducted a weekly class focusing on ancient earth and ancient life.
We have since partnered with the Orlando Science Center for the past 10 years, and because of this mutually beneficial partnership, they have given us space to display Florida fossils to the public and participate in any events that tie-in with paleontology. This gives us access to a wide range of the public, from the families that visit on weekends to the adults attending their "over 21" programs. We have also developed an informal kids' program which allows children to learn about fossils and science with hands-on activities.
By working with the University of Florida’s FOSSIL Project, we have been inspired to widen our scope of outreach via our Facebook page. This has been a huge success with statewide participation – every day, we are able to share our knowledge and advice with people who want to collect fossils, and with those who want to educate themselves about the field of paleontology in general. Our endeavors even expand to working closely with museum professionals on important discoveries made by club members. This includes over 400 fossils cataloged in the Florida Museum of Natural History’s database, and one donation of a new genus and species of saber-toothed cat, Rhizosmilodon fiteae. Our organization also works with other professional entities, such as The Two Medicine Dinosaur Center, The Academy of Natural History Preservation, and The Florida Paleontological Society.
Our newest endeavor has been an annual "Women in Paleontology" program, giving a platform for professional women in paleontology and the earth sciences to share with young women and girls about career opportunities, how they came to love earth science, and what their paleontological specialty entails. We plan on partnering with regional Girl Scout councils in the future on this event. We also hope to be able to share our experience with other organizations nation-wide so they can initiate their own programs.