Title

Communicating Paleontological Research and Techniques to a Broader Audience: A Case Study Utilizing Webinars

Document Type

Conference Poster

Journal/Book Title/Conference

Southeastern Association of Vertebrate Paleontology

Location

Gray, TN

Publication Date

6-1-2017

Abstract

Regardless of professional or hobbyist (amateur) status, paleontologists always seek more information about current research, new discoveries, and fossil collection, identification, preparation, and storage techniques. Particularly for those new to the field, it can be difficult to access resources. To address problems associated with accessibility and help foster collaboration within the paleontological community, the FOSSIL Project developed two webinar series. FOSSIL (Fostering Opportunities for Synergistic STEM with Informal Learners) is a project funded by the National Science Foundation and headquartered at the University of Florida / Florida Museum of Natural History. The project encourages “social paleontology,” which is defined as the shared practice of understanding the natural world through collection, preparation, curation, and study of fossils. One form of social paleontology includes online webinars where participants remotely view a knowledgeable speaker. The first webinar series, entitled ‘Fundamentals of Fossils,’ ran throughout Fall 2016 and the second, ‘Women in Paleontology,’ ran during Spring 2017. Prior to each webinar, the FOSSIL Project’s social media accounts created and released promotional posts to spread the word and entice viewers. These posts directly corresponded to an increase in new members to the myFOSSIL website community. Webinars were sponsored by the Paleontological Society and facilitated through iDigBio’s Adobe Connect platform with speakers presenting for 30 minutes, allowing 15 minutes for questions. Live webinars were recorded and are viewable through myFOSSIL’s website, as well as the FOSSIL Project’s YouTube channel. Viewers anonymously completed surveys following each live webinar. Survey responses revealed that knowledge of content areas increased as a result of each and highlighted a desire for more in-depth fossil preparation related webinars. Both series successfully provided information to and engaged a broad audience of mostly amateur paleontologists. The FOSSIL Project’s Fall 2017 webinar series will be modeled after PBS’s ”Antiques Roadshow,” featuring fossils rather than antiques.

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