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Considerable interest exists among lifelong learners in the USA about fossils and the science of paleontology. Unlike some other science-related groups, e.g., astronomy and ornithology, interest in fossils among amateur paleontologists is primarily focused within local clubs and societies with little national coordination. This paper presents the results of formative evaluation of the FOSSIL project, conducted after the project “Kickoff” meeting held at the NAPC (North American Paleontological Convention) in 2014. FOSSIL is developing a national networked community of practice that includes amateur and professional paleontologists. Our research indicates that more than 60 amateur fossil clubs and societies exist in the USA, of which almost 40 have elected to be part of the FOSSIL network. Overarching goals of this program include enhanced collaborations between amateurs and professionals, knowledge-building about paleontology, access to resources for lifelong learning, and development a viable learning community of practice focused on topics of common and societal interest, such as collections (including digitization), evolution, climate change, and K-12 outreach. In addition to more traditional means such as list-serves and newsletters, FOSSIL is developing an online community (myFOSSIL) and using social media (Facebook and Twitter) to foster communication and interactions among stakeholders, and thus promoting the concept of “social paleontology”.
MacFadden, B. J., Lundgren, L., Crippen, K. J., Dunckel, B. A., & Ellis, S. (2016). Amateur paleontological societies and fossil clubs, interactions with professional paleontologists, and social paleontology in the United States. Palaeontologica Electronica 19(2), 1E. doi: 10.26879/161E