Paper No. 12-4
Presentation Time: 8:45 AM
CITIZEN SCIENTIST PUBLISHING. HARNESSING PALEONTOLOGICAL KNOWLEDGE – NORTH CAROLINA FOSSIL CLUB’S FOUR PART SERIES
The North Carolina Fossil Club (NCFC), founded in 1977, has roughly 300 members at any given time. Each member has paleontological knowledge tucked away in their brains and specimens in their collections. What if both could be harnessed simultaneously to make paleontology more accessible to everyone? For the past 19 years, the NCFC has been working on compiling the most complete and accurate photographic record of North Carolina fossils. After nearly two decades of research, and tens of thousands of volunteer hours, we have achieved that. Time included research, identification, creating original artwork, cleaning up and re-touching public domain historical artwork, as well as editing, reviewing, and an enormous amount of time spent photographing hundreds of members’ specimens. The four-part series is published in five volumes and is available in both printed form and on CD. Written by a total of 16 authors, these volumes contain 1390 pages, 4400 photographs, and depict over 1,000 unique fossil species found in North Carolina. They were reviewed and endorsed by such professionals as: George Phillips, Curator of Paleontology at the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science; Lyle Campbell, Professor Emeritus, University of South Carolina; Bruce MacFadden, Distinguished Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology, Florida Museum of Natural History; and Dave Bohaska, Museum Specialist, Vertebrate Paleontology, Smithsonian Institution. To date we have sold over 650 volumes/CDs – many to professionals and professional organizations. We frequently donate CD versions to local schools for use in teaching Earth Science. Not only has this project become a valuable resource for the paleontological community and the broader public, but it has served as an excellent informal STEM learning opportunity for NCFC club members who gained skills in fossil identification, curation, specimen photography, and digitization. Harnessing the collective knowledge stored within the membership of a fossil club or society can be extraordinarily powerful. Projects like this one highlight best practices that other avocational organizations can follow to produce meaningful citizen science contributions to the field of paleontology.