Paper No. 3-6
Presentation Time: 10:00 AM
THE STEVEN C. MINKIN PALEOZOIC FOOTPRINT SITE: A SUCCESSFUL COLLABORATION BETWEEN AMATEUR AND PROFESSIONAL PALEONTOLOGISTS
Amateur paleontology is an extremely valuable resource for collecting and studying fossils in Alabama. The state is unique in that it features a geologic and fossil record that spans ~ 500 million years (Cambrian - Pleistocene). Considering there are only a handful of professional paleontologists in the region, much of the work of finding and collecting fossils in Alabama rests on amateurs and citizen scientists. Due to limited staffing and budgets, institutions rely heavily on the diligence and charity of local paleontological societies and amateurs. In Alabama, there are two established societies: the Alabama Paleontological Society (APS) and the Birmingham Paleontological Society (BPS), which work with professionals in the region to preserve and expand knowledge of the fossil record. Paleontologists share their expertise and knowledge with society members through monthly lectures, field trips, and fossil identification meets. In return, the members frequently bring important fossils and fossil localities to the attention of the professionals and regularly contribute specimens to museum collections. A unique example of this partnership was the campaign that led to the preservation of an important paleontological field site through the hard work of the Alabama Paleontological Society.
The Steven C. Minkin Paleozoic Footprint Site in Walker County, AL represents one of the most important and fossiliferous Pennsylvanian ichnofossil localities in the world. The site was originally used as a strip mine for coal production. However, when the mine was closed the process of reclamation was started. Due to the combined efforts of the amateur paleontologists in the APS and their professional colleagues, the site was acquired by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources State Lands Division and designated a paleontological site. Maintenance and supervision of the site are controlled by the APS under an agreement with the State, and monthly collecting trips to the locality are still ongoing. Important specimens and holotypes including numerous invertebrate and vertebrate trackways, plants, and even insect wings have been recovered. The successful preservation of this important site is an outstanding example of the benefits of cooperative action by amateur and professional paleontologists.