GSA Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, USA - 2019

Paper No. 153-5
Presentation Time: 2:45 PM


MCLAUGHLIN, Win N.F., Geology, Occidental College, 1600 Campus Road, Los Angeles, CA 90041, HALL, Ashley, Nature Center at Shaker Lakes, 2600 S Park Blvd, Cleveland, OH 44120 and TISDALE STEDING, Georgie, Geology, Oberlin College, Carnegie Building, 52 W Lorain St, Oberlin, OH 44074

In an age of social media, historic small museum collections are rapidly falling by the waysides. The effort of digitizing, maintaining, and promoting collections leads to many small universities dismantling collections, or allowing them to languish in obscurity. One challenge a small university like Oberlin College faces is the limited number of faculty, in this case over 150 years with only invertebrate paleontologists. We herein propose a novel modern approach to revitalizing historic collections, such as Oberlin’s dating back to 1859, namely the application of social media. Social media, such as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, promote collections by showing off the diversity of specimens, as well as providing instant access to experts of every sub-field. This is vital for reaching outside researchers in a mutually beneficial way. Fossils in small historic collections represent important samples for both taxonomic and biogeographic studies, but are missed in comparison to larger museums. By featuring fossils on social media, outside researchers benefit by finding new data, and the home institution benefits by receiving updated information about the specimens. Over the past academic year, social media promotion of the Oberlin fossil vertebrate material led to adding collections data, and therefore increasing utility as educational material, on over 100 specimens. Involving students in the process adds greatly to the educational component as well. Students redescribed or described some of the particularly important vertebrate fossils, and photographed or made scientific illustrations of fossils for posting on social media. Several student researchers furthered the project through generation of more scientific illustrations, and taking active roles in outsourcing taxonomic identifications on social media. Students were particularly active utilizing #FossilFriday. Whenever new information was generated, students made labels highlighting more than just taxonomy, but why the fossil is of interest in the context of historical geology and paleontology. With relatively little effort and resources, we are describing the historically and scientifically important collections of Oberlin, making them accessible for researchers but also better serving students in a variety of classroom settings.