Paper No. 19-6
Presentation Time: 3:25 PM
CONTRIBUTIONS OF AMATEUR FOSSIL COLLECTORS TO WEST TENNESSEE PALEONTOLOGY
North-south trending fossiliferous strata of West Tennessee span Ordovician through Quaternary systems and are popular hunting grounds for amateur fossil collectors, both individuals and organized groups, who contribute greatly to University of Tennessee Martin’s paleontology program. UT Martin routinely works with the Memphis Archaeological and Geological Society (MAGS), a well-organized amateur organization with over fifty members from the Memphis and surrounding region. MAGS meets monthly, hosting a lecture series drawing speakers from surrounding states, a monthly newsletter, and donates specimens and monetary support to the Tennessee Earth Science Teachers (TEST) efforts to train K-12 educators across Tennessee. The MAGS Newsletter features a monthly column entitled "Fabulous Tennessee Fossils" highlighting amateur fossil finds and other noteworthy Tennessee fossils. Articles teach amateurs about the process of paleontology (taxonomy, preservation, evolutionary history, paleoecology, etc.) advancing understanding of Tennessee fossils. Popular among MAGS collectors is Ross Formation (Devonian), which Yale paleontologist Carl O. Dunbar made famous as "happy hunting ground" of fossils. MAGS and other amateurs have located numerous reworked vertebrates and Paleozoic chertified fossils preserved in Paleogene-Neogene gravel deposits along the Mississippi River, including cobble preserving a complete crinoid calyx that may extend the stratigraphic range of this genus. UT Martin's relationship with the Coon Creek Science Center in McNairy County in which UT Martin directs research efforts on the Cretaceous Coon Creek lagerstätte and professional development for educators, has resulted in numerous significant specimen for research, including invertebrates, trace fossils, and vertebrates. Numerous independent collectors across West Tennessee have specific geologic formation interests and routinely scour wide expanses of field exposures to document and collect fossils; most of these individuals keep us apprised of potentially significant fossil occurrences. Without the "eyes and legs" of West Tennessee amateur fossil collectors, many of these specimens would be lost to science.