Paper No. 80-7
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-5:30 PM
MANAGING GEOHERITAGE ASSETS FOR RESEARCH, CONSERVATION, AND EDUCATION AT FLORISSANT FOSSIL BEDS NATIONAL MONUMENT, COLORADO: A TEXTBOOK EXAMPLE FOR NORTH AMERICA
The conservation, scientific research, and interpretation of paleontological and geologic resources at Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument demonstrate a multifaceted approach to effective geoheritage management by the National Park Service (NPS). Assessment of paleontological assets includes ongoing inventory and monitoring of fossil sites, and surveying Florissant publications and collections at other museums to document taxonomic diversity. Conservation activities involve maintaining fossil collections according to established NPS museum standards and developing new methods to conserve fragile fossiliferous shale and large in situ petrified tree stumps. The monument actively supports ongoing scientific research, such as reconstruction of paleoclimate from fossil plants, which in turn provides information for interpretive and educational media in the exhibit hall of a new visitor center and in website exhibits. Recent innovative developments in these education efforts include interpretive panels along a newly designated geologic trail, a geologic trail map and guide, mobile apps to describe geologic features in the field, the design of a geology curriculum for elementary school students, and various website applications that feature information about the fossils at various levels for students, teachers, and the public. International collaboration enables partnerships to share conservation methods with other petrified forest sites worldwide. Pursuit of geopark designation for the area has been ongoing, but must garner better support from local communities, who stand to benefit economically from increased interest in the area. Human impacts from the site’s geoheritage began during the homesteading era, and more recently include economic benefits for local communities, career-building opportunities for scientists and student interns, and inspiration for kids through the “junior palaeontologist” program. Florissant provides the single case study example of geoheritage assessment and management for North America in a new textbook on geoheritage efforts worldwide.