Paper No. 3-5
Presentation Time: 9:25 AM
FOSSIL CLUBS AND SOCIETIES ARE STILL RELEVANT: THE PALEONTOLOGICAL CONTRIBUTIONS OF THE SOUTHWEST FLORIDA FOSSIL SOCIETY
Amateur and avocational paleontologists provide a unique bridge between academic paleontologists and the general public. As members of fossil clubs and societies, amateurs can pool their creativity and resources in outreach activities, volunteerism efforts, and partnerships with museums and institutions. The Southwest Florida Fossil Society (SFFS) is a prime example of the importance of fossil organizations to the field of paleontology. First established in 1983 as a club, the SFFS is now a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with a mission to promote and foster the science of paleontology and to provide a regional forum for education, training, and experience in the field. The society has a long history of working closely with professionals, including the donation of scientifically-valuable fossils, such as the sun star species Heliaster microbrachius (Florida Museum of Natural History collections) and specimens of Mammuthus columbi (Smithsonian Institution collections). Additionally, SFFS created a scholarship program in 1997 that supports two University of Florida paleontology graduate students with research awards each year. Currently, SFFS is heavily involved with the FOSSIL Project and is helping to network amateur and professional paleontologists across the state of Florida and the entire nation. Looking forward to the future, the society plans to develop even more partnerships with professional paleontologists, continue to improve our education and outreach endeavors, and increase support of paleontology graduate students.