Communicating Fossil Collection and Preparation Techniques to a Wider Audience: A Case Study Utilizing Webinars

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Conference Paper

Journal/Book Title/Conference

Annual Fossil Preparation & Collections Symposium


Austin, TX

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Regardless of professional or hobbyist (amateur) status, paleontologists and preparators always seek more information on fossil collection and preparation techniques. Particularly for those new to the field, it can be difficult to access resources. To address problems associated with accessibility and to help foster collaboration within the paleontological community, the FOSSIL Project developed a webinar series entitled ‘Fundamentals of Fossils’ that ran throughout the Fall of 2016. 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 (FLMNH). 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 ‘Fundamentals of Fossils’ series, sponsored by the Paleontological Society and facilitated by the iDigBio project, informed and engaged a broad audience of mostly amateurs on best practices for handling fossils. Webinar content grew more detailed as the series progressed. The first one, ‘Fossil Collecting: Where, When, and How,’ was presented by Jayson Kowinsky, creator of the Fossil Guy website. This was followed by ‘Field Notes 101’ presented by Bruce MacFadden, curator of paleontology at FLMNH. Next, Dava Butler, education coordinator at Waco Mammoth National Monument, presented ‘Excavating Fossils’. The final webinar, ‘Fossil Preparation Basics,’ was presented by Rachel Narducci, research assistant at FLMNH. Viewers anonymously completed surveys following each webinar. Survey responses revealed that knowledge of content areas increased as a result of each webinar. The final webinar focused on how fossils are prepared and stored in the vertebrate and invertebrate paleontology preparation laboratories at FLMNH. The series successfully communicated best practices to a broad audience and highlighted a desire for more in-depth fossil preparation related webinars.

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