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Amateur hour at The Fossil Forum

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Getting Started - Reading and Learning

Some Background: I was already somewhat familiar with the idea that one had to have a license to collect certain fossils. As a child, I'd spent enough summer days at Kelly Rock Springs to find the occasional 'other fossil' in addition to the plethora of shark teeth usually found. These other fossils would get enjoyed for the afternoon and then left behind. I never found anything particularly impressive, I needed glasses but couldn't be bothered to wear them around water and thus really couldn't see anything. One day though, a friend of mine found a fantastic large tooth, mastodon or mammoth. Watching him relinquish that tooth to an adult collector with the proper license reinforced the necessity of having the appropriate licensing. Of course, at that time, I would have needed a parent to sign me up and they weren't overly interested. I couldn't blame them, they were busy.

Licensing and Legalities: I'm a chicken. I can't help but feel I should get that out of the way first. I spend hours reading before trying pretty much anything. The first thing I searched for was where to apply for a license to collect vertebrate fossils. I sent in my application and a short two weeks later received back my fossil collecting license. Here in Florida, the license is just for vertebrate fossils collected on state land. Collecting of human artifacts is prohibited. Shark teeth are thus far excluded from any licensing requirements. The license carries with it the obligation to report back all findings before renewing the license at the end of the year. Sixty days from the date of reporting, the fossil ownership reverts to me if the state decides they don't need the fossil.

Deciding where to hunt: This has been a tougher question. I will be taking my 5 year old daughter with me and feel uncomfortable taking her to some of the better fossil locations. Most of the good locations here in the state of Florida are in freshwater rivers which also happen to be the location of gators. That pretty much leaves us with beach collecting. If we join a club, perhaps one of the mine field trips which allow children. In the meantime, another option has availed itself.

Fossil hunting from the comfort of home: I'm trying not to make a nuisance of myself in the forums. I read until I think my brain is as full as it can get and then take a break. I try not to respond as I don't yet have anything of value to add to the conversation. Thanks to this forum, I realized that there aren't just regular sized fossils out there. There are tiny fossils too. In a fantastic stroke of luck, I realized that the micro-fossils I liked the best are from my home state. Better yet, the forum member collecting this material is from my hometown. How's that for convenience?

Starting out with tiny fossils: It was really difficult to resist just digging right into the bag and looking for fossils. I decided that this time I would start out organized. I ordered gem jars and tiny bags from a jewelry supply. I picked up some drug store magnifying glasses and decided to start sorting. Right away, I determined that the drug store magnifying glasses were rubbish. They made things larger, but, still blurry. I pity anyone who tries to read a newspaper with the brand I purchased. At the moment, I am picking out anything that looks sort of biological and then using my Epson V300 scanner to see if anything I've side-lined is actually a fossil. I will have to sort it all again as soon as I have a better way to view these tiny fossils.

Imaging and Identifying: I already own a DSLR, an older Canon Rebel. Unfortunately, I still only own the kit lens. As much as I would love to justify a macro lens, I think that I will start out with a Vivitar close-up lens kit. I'm hoping that with bright enough lighting I will be able to create images decent enough for identifying fossils easily. I would really like a microscope, but, the wide range of options in microscopes has left me undecided. So far, my best images have come from the Epson scanner. I'm hoping that the Vivitar lenses and better lighting will be enough to make the Canon equal to the task. I've already found quite a few neat little fossils, but, I know that my images of those fossils aren't good enough for more than loose identification.

In Conclusion: I'm twenty days into the fossil collecting hobby. I guess I shouldn't feel too bad that I don't have much of this figured out yet. I'm sure that most of this blog won't be particularly helpful to anyone. I'm mostly posting this so that a couple years from now when something hasn't worked out and I'm frustrated with the hobby I can look back and see that I'm a bit less of a dummy than I was when I started. <--- Yes, this run-on sentence is unforgivable, but, I am sick yet again and my 100+ fever is making me apathetic about grammar.