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Found 32 results

  1. Our Fossilicious Summer

    WHAT WE LEARNED IN OUR FIRST FOSSIL HUNTING SUMMER This is a short recap of what we learned on our fossil trips this summer, in our first 3 months as very new fossil collectors. This week, Nancy and I gave a slide presentation on our summer fossil hunting experiences, to the Delaware Valley Paleontological Society. We didn't realize it ourselves but in 3 months we visited 8 sites in Pennsylvania and New York including: Antes Creek, Deer Lake, Red Hill, Juniata County, McIntyre Mountain, Montour and St. Clair in Pennsylvania, and a very productive trip to Tully, NY. We visited St. Clair 4 times, which has become our home site. At St. Clair, we were astonished by the diversity of species - we collected well articulated samples of more than a dozen species including: Alethopteris, Annularia, Asterophyllites, Cordaites, Cyclopteris, Eusphenopteris, Lepidophylloides, Neuropteris, Odontopteris, Pecopteris, Sphenophyllum, Sphenopteris, and numerous Seeds, Bark, Roots. Most notably - I learned to pronounce all of these without stuttering! At St. Clair, we spent one trip looking exclusively for seeds trigonocarpus), and one trip looking just for roots (stigmaria). Our most significant finds have included very large (2 foot long) display pieces covered with well articulated orange ferns, an alethopteris seed attached to a leaf stem, and many Carboniferous leaves that have different shapes from traditional ferns. What we learned this summer has really helped us find some interesting fossils - here are a few things we did that helped a lot: 1. DOING OUR HOMEWORK. It helped to study each site in advance using Internet websites and books on fossils (Dave's "Views of the Mahantango" and "Louisville Fossils" are among the best, imho). Several universities also have great educational sites that bring each era to life in very creative and interesting ways, with lots of illustrations and photos. I like the UC-Berkeleyand University of West Virginia websites. 2. LEARNING FROM TRIP REPORTS. We read trip reports from other groups and individuals to see what they reported - sometimes this helps us stumble across new places to visit such as the site at Tully, NY and Deer Lake. 3. SETTING GOALS AND TARGETS FOR EACH TRIP. For each trip, we establish specific goals - for example we may look for seeds, or roots at St. Clair, or trilobites or shell assemblages at a Devonian site. Our interest right now is in looking for things that are scarce or rare, and fossils that are extremely well articulated (which is also rare!). We also like solving puzzles so eventually we would like to find things that help add to the fossil record in areas where there are still questions or missing links. 4. DISPLAYING WHAT WE FIND. Personally, Nancy and I like collecting larger fossils that we can display in mounts and frames, and we are also looking for larger pieces that we can display like sculptures - we have a few pieces that we drilled holes in, inserted wooden dowels that we stained, and then drilled/inserted the dowels in wooden trophy bases - all available from a craft store. This allows us to display thicker fossils esp. assemblages, like sculptures, and you can turn them around and look at all sides when they are mounted like this. 5. WE AVOID FOSSIL HORDING. We both agreed that we would NOT become "fossil horders" putting hundreds of rocks in boxes and sticking them away in the basement or garage - instead, we focus on finding display-quality items, and rare or scarce finds which we are slowly putting in frames. 6. DOCUMENTING OUR FINDS WITH CLOSEUP PHOTOS. We photograph everything we find as soon as possible after returning from a trip, using a digital camera with a closeup attachment - many times we find new discoveries while taking closeup photos and some of our best finds came AFTER we returned from the trip and inspected our fossils. I usually put the finds on a white background on an ironing board and use window light, nothing fancy, but it works. 7. FOSSIL ID. We post anything we can't identify on the Fossil Forum and are EXTREMELY grateful for the terrific response from our friends on the site! We are also accumulating a growing library of fossil books (some modern, some from the 19th and early 20th century) so we can identify more fossils ourselves without having to post on Fossil ID. 8. WRITING ABOUT OUR EXPERIENCES GIVES US NEW INSIGHTS. We report everything that interests and excites us about fossil hunting on Fossil Forum to share our experiences - and we find that writing about what we're doing helps us learn more and gain insights, just from writing about it. We have also started videotaping some of our adventures and are thinking about the best place to post some of these. 9. WINTER PLANS: COPING WITH CABIN FEVER. Our winter plans are to visit one or two more sites, then go into "fossil hibernation" and organize, identify and label fossils we haven't processed yet. We have a Dremel to do some light preservation work where needed. We are not planning to become "chemical conservators" - using chemicals to dissolve limestone and so forth - that's a bit too ambitious for us at this point. We may get involved in some interesting activities by local universities that are using 3D printing to process and replicate large dinosaur bones. We are also planning to provide an exhibit (on Carboniferous plants and trees/coal swamps) at a fossil fair in April. 10. RECOMMENDED READING: I enjoy reading fossil books - I'm currently reading with great interest a small book entitled "Leaves and Stems from Fossil Forests" by Raymond E. Janssen (1939) which I bought last night at the DVPS meeting, and a textbook entitled Introduction to Paleobiology and the Fossil Record by Benton and Harper (2008) (excellent book). The book that has been the most useful to me so far is the classic book "Fossil Collecting in Pennsylvania" by Hoskins et. al. (3rd ed. 1983). I am constantly re-reading the Hoskins book and find something new each time as my knowledge grows. A book that impressed Nancy and me is a large beautifully illustrated book entitled "Prehistoric Life: The Definitive Visual History of Life on Earth" (published by Dorling Kindersley, 2012) UPDATE (Oct 11): Nancy is taking some college courses which are prerequisites to enter grad school, so I am doing most of the fossil reading and ID. I read several books at the same time and other books I purchased that I am currently reading are: Paleobotany: The Biology and Evolution of Fossil Plants (second edition) by Thomas Taylor; and Introduction to Paleobiology and the Fossil Record by Benton and Harper. I guess you can tell from this that I'm reading up on fossil plants - my main interest is not just to understand the evolution and fossil record, identification tips, etc. - but also to try to figure out where the missing links and gaps are so if we come across something that adds to the fossil record, we will be able to recognize the value. What is most surprising is that there is a lot missing from the Carboniferous record - partly because after this period, many of the oceans and swamps apparently dried up and there were ice ages and other factors that caused mass extinctions. Here are some interesting things I have learned this summer about Fossil Plants and Trees: 1. More Carboniferous insect fossils and evidence of insects are needed (by the way, there are some GREAT current discussions about insects on this forum!). 2. Many categories of lycopsids and other Carboniferous trees and plants do not have verified associations between the leaves and seeds, or leaves and trunks/stems. Many trigonocarpus (fossilized seeds and "fruits") are found with leaves, but examples of seeds actually ATTACHED to leaf sprigs are rare (we have found one example of a seed attached to Alethopteris). 3. More Leaf and Bark Verifications are Needed. Another interesting thing I learned is that there are more than 30 different types of "scale tree" patterns but only half a dozen leaves for these trees - suggesting that a lot of different species had the same leaves - or - there are a lot of missing leaf types or the existing leaf types have not been matched to the bark patterns yet. 4. Another peculiar revelation is that most Carboniferous leaves that do not fall neatly into classic fern shapes seem to be lumped together as "sphenopteris" - we have many "non-traditional fern" leaf fossils that are VERY different from each other and obviously different species, but when we go online to ID them, they all seem to be grouped as "sphenopteris!" Maybe some of these leaf types match up with the bark patterns I mentioned. 5. Last but certainly not least is the insight that fern trees could have 2 or 3 different types of leaves on the same tree! This was really interesting. Also, some leaf types can come in different shapes - for example, Neuropteris can be round at the base of a stem and elongated along the stem and at the tip...AND...some paleobotanists now classify cyclopteris - the round fan shaped leaf - as a form of Neuropteris. This definitely adds to the confusion. I'm still reading and trying to understand all of this and these are only my initial impressions, which are still forming and there may be explanations for some of these questions that I haven't discovered yet but these are the questions that I am trying to answer by reading, and of course, by fossil collecting. I hope that many of our new friend (and I should add, VERY COOL new friends!) on the fossil forum will help clarify some of these interesting questions. Hope this is helpful.
  2. Fossil seed ferns (Alethopteris sp.). 300 m.y.o. St. Clair, PA. 185mm. One of the coolest fossil hunting experiences I’ve had. The amount of detail preserved in these fossils is incredible—some appear as if the leaves had just fallen! Exploring this area was like being transported back in time. Looking at a fossil like the one pictured here, it is not difficult to imagine the ancient carboniferous swamp coming back to life. For me, fossils are all about stress relief; a sobering—yet comforting—reminder of how briefly we are here, and where our priorities should lie. When I feel overwhelmed, it is relieving to recall how petty our day-to-day struggles are in the grand scheme of things. Life goes on. -Zach
  3. I'm hearing reports from different sources that collecting fossil ferns at Burma Road near St. Clair is not allowed anymore. Part of the "rumor" is a local woman was running paid field trips to the collecting site and got shut down. Now violators are being prosecuted for trespassing. Can any fellow collectors shed some light of truth on the topic? I'm fearful of the expected reply; but need to know the truth.
  4. I am a quarry geologist in PA and rarely need to identify fossils. However, I found this cool one that I just can't ID from publications if google searches. It was found in a quarry near Pottsville and St. Clair, PA. It is from the base of the Llewellyn Formation. I found some photos of fossils that look similar but usually each "scale" (not sure of the proper term) is more like an inch, but as you can see by the penny in the picture these are much smaller. Help!
  5. On our recent half day trip to the St. Clair fern pits (Aug 11), we focused mostly on finding fossil fern seeds. All of these seed fossils came from one half-day visit. The isolated fossils were found on pieces of shale we inspected from the many piles strewn around the excavated collecting pits. Those that show both halves came from fragmenting small to medium sized pieces from the cast-off pieces around the pits. This was a time-consuming exercise in patience and involved a certain amount of luck but as you can see, we accomplished our goal which was to collect some well-articulated seed fossils. Most of these are Alethopteris seeds including the best find (1a/1b) that shows both halves of the seed and the seed stem. We're wondering about the "split top" seeds - are these Alethopteris seeds starting to open up, or something else? At least two of these (Seeds 4 and 5) are shapes we can't find in the fossil reference literature. 1a and 1b. Alethopteris seed attached by stem. Our best find was this trigonocarpus (fern seed) showing the stem attached to an Alethopteris sprig. We haven't seen too many seed fossils this well defined including the seed stem and associated fern leaves all attached to the same stem. Update: "Trigonocarpus" is the general name given to fern seeds. Our seed is attached by a short stem to the mid-rib of an Alethopteris fern pinnule. We do not believe this is a coincidence (for example the seed lying on top of a leaf) because it is perpendicular to the frond stem and the attachment is pretty clear on both halves of the fossil. We were fortunate to collect both halves and this specimen is very well articulated. (Nancy actually discovered this by splitting open a fragment that was cast aside at one of the small pits dug by other fossil hunters - we have found a lot of our most exciting and rare fossils by segmenting pieces that are already lying on the ground around this site - of course, there are thousands of fragments so it takes a keen eye, it helps to know how the different structures relate to each other so if there is a cluster of a certain species you know what to look for and where, and always it helps to have some luck. We have emailed our photos to the paleontologists at UC-Berkeley who have an artist's rendition of this seed/attachment on their site (see my post below). They mention on their site that not many attached alethopteris seeds have been found. More photos of this are included in my post below. Unidentified Seed 1a and 1b. This is an isolated fern seed not associated with a specific type of fern leaf. Both halves are shown. It has a distinctive groove in the top. Seed 2. Another isolated fern seed. Seed 3. Another similar fern seed. Seed 4 is a different shape - a round seed with serrated edge. Seed 5 is another different shape that we see frequently although it's usually not very well articulated. Is this a seed or something else? It's always this shape. Seed 6a and 6b are both halves of the same seed and have the same shape (groove at the top) as Seed 1a/1b above. Seed 7 is another isolated seed. Thanks in advance for your opinions!
  6. Fossil seed ferns (Alethopteris sp.). 300 m.y.o. St. Clair, PA. 185mm. One of the coolest fossil hunting experiences I’ve had. The amount of detail preserved in these fossils is incredible—some appear as if the leaves had just fallen! Exploring this area was like being transported back in time. Looking at a fossil like the one pictured here, it is not difficult to imagine the ancient carboniferous swamp coming back to life. For me, fossils are all about stress relief; a sobering—yet comforting—reminder of how briefly we are here, and where our priorities should lie. When I feel overwhelmed, it is relieving to recall how petty our day-to-day struggles are in the grand scheme of things. Life goes on. -Zach
  7. Fossil seed ferns (Alethopteris sp.). 300 m.y.o. St. Clair, PA. 185mm. One of the coolest fossil hunting experiences I’ve had. The amount of detail preserved in these fossils is incredible—some appear as if the leaves had just fallen! Exploring this area was like being transported back in time. Looking at a fossil like the one pictured here, it is not difficult to imagine the ancient carboniferous swamp coming back to life. For me, fossils are all about stress relief; a sobering—yet comforting—reminder of how briefly we are here, and where our priorities should lie. When I feel overwhelmed, it is relieving to recall how petty our day-to-day struggles are in the grand scheme of things. Life goes on. In order to illustrate the detail of these ferns, I found it was critical to get the lighting right. I experimented with many different positions/intensities of flash in order to get the desired effect. If light is coming from directly above, it can easily "flatten" out the fine texture of the piece, and I discovered that angling the flashes to the sides of the piece worked much better. -Zach
  8. Neuropteris leaf from St. Clair, PA.

    From the album Carboniferous from PA.

    Neuropteris decipiens (leaf) Pennsylvanian Llewellyn Formation St. Clair, PA.
  9. Pyrite fern from St. Clair, PA.

    From the album Carboniferous from PA.

    Mariopteris cf. lobata (partially preserved in pyrite) Pennsylvanian Llewellyn Formation St. Clair, PA.
  10. Fern fossils from St. Clair

    From the album Carboniferous from PA.

    Neuropteris ovata, Alethopteris serlli. Sphenophyllum sp. Pennsylvanian Llewellyn Formation St. Clair, PA.
  11. Went up to St. Clair today and man did I make out well. Found an old pit someone had dug and, after moving some overburden, got down to good rock. The layers I was working were about 6" thick and bounded on the top by barren rock (possibly a paleosol) and the bottom by a layer of decorticated tree trunks. In between was fern heaven dominated by Alethopteris and Neuropteris. I did find a couple of Pectopteris pieces and some Calamites branch sprouts but that was about it for diversity. Over 100 lbs of rock hauled back to my car in two trips. Here are some pics that are the tip of the iceberg of what I found. One of my piles of keepers. More in the next post...
  12. St. Clair Fossils - What are these Bubbles? Nan and I visited Deer Lake on Aug. 30 and squeezed in a couple of hours at the end of the day to visit the fern site at St. Clair - we looked mostly for insects or insect traces, and fern seeds. Also we wanted to pick up a nice specimen for one of my colleagues. Here are our finds - maybe someone can explain what the "bubbles" are in these fossils: Carboniferous Bubbles/Bumps: Here are some closeups showing the "bumps or bubbles": Almond Shaped Fossil with Small Bumps: This almond shaped fossil shows bumps on the surface - it is about 2 cm long: This is the most intriguing fossil of all - also has these peculiar bumps: Thanks in advance for helping to identify and explain these finds.
  13. Let me start out by saying I am not a fossil preservation expert, nor a paleontologist. I have a PhD in Paleoclimatological Modelling and as a consequence, spent my time glued to a computer, with my head deep in computer science and geological papers but not the rocks. My undergraduate honors thesis however was in paleontology, determining a metric for characterizing patterns in evolution using the morphology of Conodonts and Archosaurs... so I've always had a love for the field and have taken up fossil collecting again as a hobby now that I have found some time. Thought my recent head-first dive into fossil consolidation using Butvar-76 could help given the fact that a lot of newbies, such as myself, bring up the topic often and repeat the same questions. So, my effort to consolidate the information (pun intended) is here. One of the things I began researching was preservation of various material - bones as well as other delicate fossils as I wanted to preserve what I had collected and subsequently neglected over the years, until now. Clearly, consolidants such as Butvar-76, Vinac and PVA were regular hits in my research. My own decision was to use Butvar-76 simply because it was (or still is?) a standard in preservation and fully reversible if so desired. You can make your own decision to what best suites your own needs, but my write-up here is for my experience using Butvar-76. My initial research focused on these specific forum topics: http://www.thefossilforum.com/index.php?/topic/3629-preserving-fossils/ http://www.thefossilforum.com/index.php?/topic/23262-butvar-76-bone-frosting-solved/ http://www.thefossilforum.com/index.php?/topic/21591-butvar-vs-duco/ http://www.thefossilforum.com/index.php?/topic/35626-cleaning-and-stabilizing-st-clair-fossil-ferns/ http://www.thefossilforum.com/index.php?/topic/32206-where-to-buy-butvar/ http://www.thefossilforum.com/index.php?/topic/28135-butvar-b-76-question/ Harry's responses have always outlined exactly what I was looking for and he has a great write-up which I used as a basis for my first attempt: http://www.thefossilforum.com/index.php?/user/42-harry-pristis/ My first prep. and preservation was to be on a baleen whale jaw section and vertebra from the St. Marys formation around Calvert Cliffs. It was collected 12 years ago (roughly) and still had a lot of dried out clay material and shell frags embedded in it which I wanted to remove and some portions broken apart either during collecting or drying over the last decade. The bones fresh out of storage. Baseball for scale. The points Harry and others drive home is that Butvar is for impregnating. You can mix it up thick for a glue or for a demi-shellac, but technically for vertebrate material you want to soak the stuff - completely impregnate the bone with plastic by allowing the Butvar to seep into every pore and crack in the piece to consolidate it so that your precious finds wont dry out and crack over the years. If you are just starting out, like I was, I highly recommend reading Harry's write-up I linked above. For those looking for a shellac type substance, a different thickness in Butvar solution will accomplish this leaving your piece with a wet-like finish (a thin coat of solidified, fully reversible plastic). The look of the finish will depend however on your solutions viscosity (how much Butvar powder you dissolve), the amount of water in your material before application (this is bad) and how quickly you let the material evaporate. Personally, I wanted to keep my pieces as natural as possible without a shellac, but with the protective qualities of plastic impregnation. When you purchase your first Butvar-76 batch, expect it to come in a form similar to this. Powder. The things to watch out for, and pay attention to were: (1) Water such as surface, humidity, pore, interstitial etc; (2) evaporation rate of the solution after application; (3) thickness of the solution; (4) Materials for mixing (e.g. acetone can chew through lots of different kinds of plastics); (5) Storage. For the jaw section, I cleaned it using a soft toothbrush and water and left some of the clay material in some of the cracks that I thought would help stabilize the bone - for filling other cracks after the pieces were assembled I intended to use matrix mixed with white-glue. I did not glue the two larger pieces back together yet as I wanted to Butvar them separately as the acetone may weaken the glue. Since I used water for cleaning, I put the bones in the oven on low for an hour to dry them out. I read about heat shock damage, but many threads say they never experienced them, so I took a shot. I did however buy a few pounds of silica based desiccant (very cheap at pet stores and Ebay) for a homemade desiccant chamber just in case - and something I will touch on later for another piece to dry it out. Silica gel desiccant for drying items out that you don't want to put in the oven. You must create a very closed system for this. After drying, I used a 800 ml mason jar to mix my Butvar solution. My jars were acquired at the local Weis store and were less than a dollar a piece. The inner rim has a silicone based sealant which gets degraded with use - but since the jar is beveled and has the classic two-part top, you can still get a very tight fit without the spills. To mix, I measured the Butvar powder out and sprinkled the powder into the acetone. I then tightened the lid and shook violently until the powder became almost dissolved into the acetone (you will notice the white powder starts expanding into "clear bubble like" globs before finally fully dissolving into solution. I then left it for about 5 minutes to allow it to fully dissolve - and shook more if necessary. I made sure to check the bottom of the jar to disrupt any powder that may have settled to form a layer. Be rough with it. 800 ml Mason Jar. Mason Jar classic top, with beveled edge. This silicon gel sealant will get eaten by the acetone. If you are using a classic mason jar lid however, that doesn't matter if you tighten the top. I tested different thicknesses on random clean, dried rocks to see the different results. 1 tablespoon in 800 ml seemed to do very little. May be good for a deep soak but was hard to tell how much stability I was getting. At 3 tablespoons shale was getting a wet-like surface and at 3.5 tablespoons I was getting a clear coat on the outside that was painfully obvious. I didn't like this result personally, but my friend liked it on his St. Clair material as it made the shale darker, and ferns whiter. I will touch on this point again later on. Finally, after a bit more trial and error, about 2 and a third tablespoons seemed to be my sweet spot. Fractures were consolidated in shale, and smaller bone frags I had laying around definitely benefited. The outside also wasn't too obvious although when you touched it, you could tell ever so slightly that it was there. I then created a tin-foil pan using heavy-duty tin-foil, placed the bones in the foil pan and covered it with my solution. After about 30 seconds to a minute, I removed the pieces and placed them into a Rubbermaid PP recycle number 5 container to slow down evaporation. Earlier, without tenting the material, a bone fragment got the white dusting on the outside that had to be removed with acetone later on. I wanted to avoid this. It should be noted that not all plastics are created equal and there are many out there that can fit the bill here for both soaking (if you don't want to use tin-foil) and tenting to slow down evap. I used the following to allow me to find the right materials for this job: http://www.coleparmer.com/Chemical-Resistance http://www.plasticsintl.com/plastics_chemical_resistence_chart.html Simple Rubbermaid storage container - singular unit PP 5 plastic. Recycle number 5, PP, is Polypropylene and is A-Excellent for compatibility with acetone. Lots of Rubbermaid tubs are made from this but make sure to check - LDPE is not very good and after a few uses will start to degrade. Recycle number 3 will simply dissolve. Silicone also will degrade which is often used in lids including the popular Pyrex home storage container lids. My container was a singular piece PP box. I added some tin-foil balls to the base of my box for drying purposes, as I wanted to have less contact points on the incoming wet fossils - the balls act as pedestals over the plastic which seemingly helps drying on all sides - and the natural crinkles in the foil further reduce contact points. Super-dee-duper simple drying rack. Tin foil balls placed in the bottom of the PP5 container. The balls act as a colonnade to stack your fossils on to reduce contact points while drying. The crinkles in the foil further reduce surface area touching the specimen. Fossil stacked for drying, tented for slower evaporation of the Butvar solution. After tenting and allowing the bones to fully dry, I glued the fragments back together with cyanoacrylate gel (super glue) and am beginning the process of finalizing the finer details using white glue and matrix. Any "frosting" you get due to whatever process you use, can easily be removed using a q-tip or brush dipped in acetone. The amount of pure acetone you will re-apply depends on what you are doing - if you are re-soaking in acetone to remove the plastic (or some of it), or simply adding some acetone to try and get the plastic back in solution to seep deeper off the surface. Current prep. state of the same bone material. Brown coloration coming through after cleaning, fully impregnated with plastic. No frosting and pieces are re-assembled using cyanoacrylate gel. Cracks will be filled in with a mixture of the calvert clay and PVA. For brushes I used a Nylon based brush as Nylon does not react with acetone. You can get natural hair brushes from an art store, but Home Depot had artificial bristles, Nylon of which was the most compatible with acetone. Simple Nylon bristle brushes - thanks Home Depot. Nylon has a high level of acetone compatibility. Other artificial bristles will dissolve. For impregnation I poured over the entire bone. Brushes were used on smaller pieces to drip solution over. I rarely brushed - I may have dabbed here and there especially over areas of bone that had more pores in them to help the solution to get into the material. These brushes can be used in pure acetone to re-dissolve Butvar, or clean up and frosting which may have occurred in your own experiences. Every thread regarding Butvar talks about bones because that is seemingly the primary use. Agreed. However, I wanted a material that could be used almost universally for archival purposes, vertebrate and invertebrate - even on St. Clair shale. 14 inch St. Clair plate, multiple species, pre-Butvar. Fern fossils from St. Clair are very intricate and have both a graphitic like imprints and the famous white Pyrophyllite form. The later of which flakes off easily even as you try and get it out of the field site. I wanted something that could preserve the ferns, Pyrophyllite and all, as well as consolidate any shale layers and frags that may have been loosened during excavation. The Pyrophyllite also seems sensitive to water content so I wanted to completely preserve the piece. People have had success using hair-spray in the field (cf. links above) and in hind sight, I probably would use a soluble hair-spray in the field for removal, bring the fossils home, rinse with water, dehydrate, then consolidate. In my first attempt however, I skipped the hair-spray and brought them home the best I could. Since I didn't want to "cook" shale from a high carbon locality, I took the silica desiccant, filled a porous sack (feel free to use a sock) and put it in another Rubbermade container. I then left the fossils inside this home-made desiccant chamber for 2 days, only to remove them immediately prior to Butvar application. It's not perfect, but I like to think it did something - the Rubbermade get's a very good seal to it, proof of which is the fumes of acetone when you finally open the lid. Along these lines an important note: make sure to always do this in a highly vented area (outside is good) and no where near anything flammable. At 3.5 tablespoons of Butvar in my 800 ml container my friend got a wet-like clear coating on the outside of his pieces which he liked as they made the shale blacker and the white ferns pop more. And clearly they were preserved. I wanted something less obvious and went with my 2 and a third tablespoon mixture again and followed the same procedure outlined above. The outcome was perfect, with layers and fragments firmly in place, the shale still in its original color and I can tell that the piece is Butvar'ed since I can rub my finger on the pieces and not get an anthracitic stain on my figure from the residue of the shale. Also, the white portions no longer flake on contact. Putting a non-consolidated shale piece next to one I did at 2 and a third tablespoons, you cannot tell the difference. Same plate as before, after Butvar using the solution ratio mentioned. A lot of this was trial an error using the aforementioned posts as a guide. I am sure the heavies will chime in on the mistakes I made along the way, but thought first timers may enjoy a report on a fellow first timers attempt. And Harry, if you feel I lead someone astray with some wrong information, I will gladly correct my wording - or point out my own mistakes. Best, M
  14. Hello! I recently received a shipment of fossil ferns from St Clair PA. I have never dealt with these before and they seem fairly fragile and they came fairly raw, with some dirt on them and leaving a grey residue/dust behind everywhere they go. Whats the best way to clean these without damaging them and should I coat them with something to protect them? And if so, then what? They range in thickness from a quarter inch to an inch. These are from the Llewellyn Formation, Pennsylvanian Period. Some of the pieces have what appears to be some pyrite or graphite, a shiny silver metallic look. I included a picture of the items as reference:
  15. Red Hill And St. Clair Fossil Sites?

    Later this month I am going to Pennsylvania and heard about the Red hill Fossil site but i wanted to know how to get permission and where exactly it is. I am staying near hershey PA but i will be willing to drive a few hours to get to the site. I also wanted to know if you can hunt at st. clair still and where that is too. Thanks in advance.
  16. I can't seem to find an image or plate for this in my fossil books - this is a long branching vine or stem with elongated veinless leaves running along the stems. I've included a full view as well as closeups showing the leaves. The leaves are flat and long and run along the stem in a series. My impression is that this is a small vine of some sort with leaves running along the stems. It is one of our finds from the Llewellyn Formation at St. Clair. Any ideas? Image P8302029a includes arrows pointing to the leaves running along the stems, at the base of the fossil. Image P8302016a shows the major branching stems - there are also minor stems Image P8302012a is a closeup of the leaf which appears to have no veins. Image P8302020a shows another leaf closeup. Image P8302013a and P8302017a show a closeup of a single leaf.
  17. St. Clair Trip Nan and I took a trip to Deer Lake and we managed to squeeze in a couple of hours at the end of the day to visit the St. Clair fern site - which we consider to be our "home site." We always see animals there - a bear and cub were there last year, an 8 foot long black snake (it was really that long!) and this time we saw a dozen male and female turkeys. The site has been pretty well picked over by a season of fossil hunting so there aren't as many good finds lying scattered around on the ground but we don't normally scavenge these shards anyway - we either excavate the open pits left by previous fossil hunters, or we find promising looking pieces that have been discarded and crack them open with chisels. We also have gained a good sense of what kinds of fossils are located in various places on the site and we visualize in our mind's eye what this Carboniferous site must have looked like, 308 million years ago. This is Nan showing the width of a giant Calamites tree trunk that has been eroding slowly out of the ground substrate. The tree was squashed flat and people walking over it have begun to destroy and flake off what was previously a perfect large tree trunk embedded in the ground. I always say that cracking open fossil rocks is like opening a box of crackerjack. Here's a great example of a crackerjack fossil: Opening a Crackerjack Fossil This fossil looked very ordinary and not at all promising. However, it was thick and easy to crack open so I gave it a whack with my hammer and chisel. The results unfolded exactly as you see here - revealing a nice section of Cordaites (a very large leaf with close-together grooves, that looked like a corn leaf) and other fern leaves. We looked for a display piece for a colleague and Nan found this nice specimen: This will look nice in our friend's office, placed on a tilted rack we bought from Michael's craft store: We also found this sphenophyllum (a small plant that grew like a vine in the coal swamps):
  18. Walnut Shaped Oddity From St. Clair

    Trigonocarpus (Seed) from St. Clair PA This is a walnut shaped fossil discovered Aug. 30 at the St. Clair, PA Carboniferous fern site. This was found by Nan while she was looking for insects/traces - assume it is a fern seed (trigonocarpus is the morphologic genus given to fern seeds) but we haven't seen this one before. It is about 3 1/2 centimeters long: Here are some closeups:
  19. I found this at St. Clair in a pile of small rocks and boulders on top of a hill at the fossil fern site at St. Clair PA - obviously these are not Pennsylvanian swamp fossils - I believe this was part of a load of older rocks and boulders dumped there from when this was an active mining pit. The rock is hard sandstone or silicate - burrow/fossil was replaced by quartz). The tunnel or fossil starts on one side and makes a U-shape to the other side. One side looks like it is filled and the other side looks hollow. I've found other specimens showing the same pattern, as well. Update (26 Oct)! - Since posting this, several Forum experts have formed a consensus that this is a quartz vein rather than a burrow - I'm personally still a bit skeptical, but respect the experts on the forum who have seen many more fossils than me. Here is an illustration on page 215 in Donald Hoskins' excellent book (Fossil Collecting in Pennsylvania) - which looks like this - showing a burrowing "marine worm" (annelid) that is found in hardened sandstone and is thought to have inhabited both marine and freshwater sand. It is always U-SHAPED - the creature lived in the burrow and obtained food that circulated through the U shaped burrow. This fossil looks like it wraps around the rock. I added several photos (number A, B and C below) to show the end of the rock (the bottom of the "U"). A, B and C walk you around the rock. HOWEVER - Forum advisors suggest that the "burrow" is actually a vein of quartz running completely through the rock. This is exactly why the Forum exists, to clarify misconceptions by new fossil hunters (and veterans, too!) - so the input from Forum regulars is MUCH appreciated. Whether this is a quartz vein or Arenicolites, here is a 2005 research paper entitled: TREPTICHNUS AND ARENICOLITES FROM THE STEVEN C. MINKIN PALEOZOIC FOOTPRINT SITE (LANGSETTIAN, ALABAMA, USA) by ANDREW K. RINDSBERG and DAVID C. KOPASKA-MERKEL - this is available free online.
  20. Hello everyone! I guess curiosity just got the best of me and I decided to drive to St. Clair. I am only about 10 minutes away. I searched for the directions and ended up in what I thought was the same fern fossil bed as everyone else but, to my dismay, after checking Google Earth, I was not in the same area. I was on Burma Road alright, but just in a different "parking lot". Anyway, the day started out with a long trek on the path through the woods. A good friend and I had spotted some wild turkeys running ahead of us. That was fun. I decided to keep my pepper spray with me in case of a run in with some wildlife...hmmm...We kept trekking and trekking...getting nervous we weren't going to find the fern fossil clearing...well, we didn't find what everyone else has been to, we just found a small clearing with slate formations unearthed by water flows down the hilly area we were in. If it weren't for the water flows, the ground would still be covered in a thick layer of dirt and rocks. We spent just about an hour there and this is what we found (see pics) I'm not able to identify them yet, just being a newbie but I thought you may be interested in this little excursion. We may go to the high hill next to Walmart in St. Clair. My friend tells me there is a waterfall up there. I'll keep you all posted and let you know what we find there. There are more pics also, but I am unable to upload them Maybe another post....maybe it's because I am a newbie here. The first pic is my favorite...the fossil is raised from the slate, I believe it is a neuropteris seed fern. The others I am still hoping to find a name. Thanks for looking
  21. On our third half-day trip to the St. Clair fossil fern pits, we changed our goals from display quality and size fossils, to exploring for rare and scarce fossils, which produced fewer specimens and took more time and patience, but resulted in some really cool finds (some of them are included in the images below). We recommend these St. Clair Collecting Strategies: We should mention that there are several strategies for exploring St. Clair. Strategy 1) You can whack away at the formations in the ground including pits left by previous collectors - this usually results in large piles of fragments and a few fossils worth keeping and is often wasteful. If you do this, focus on trying to extract large sheets or plate rather than destroying 100 fossils to get one you can keep. Strategy 2) Inspect the pieces left behind by pit excavators - there are piles around every pit - this trip we sorted through hundreds of discarded pieces and cracked open the thicker pieces to reveal some really exciting finds - some of our finds came from simply turning over rocks left scattered on the ground. Strategy 3) Find some large rocks or formations you can extract, then patiently crack them apart, one layer at a time - this is the "Cracker Jack" strategy we have favored in the past and gave us our largest and most attractive display fossils. Strategy 4) Read about the fossils you can find in the Pennsylvanian period - what kinds of exotic extinct plants and trees grew in the Carboniferous swamps including the exotic patterns of bark on fern trees as well as fern leaves, seeds, and patterns - then, with those images in your mind, inspect the piles of discards for rare specimens (which, we have discovered, many collectors toss away because they focus mostly on "traditional" fern leaves). These strategies apply to many "fossil-rich" sites. The RESULTS can be fascinating. Here are just a few examples of the "Strategy 4" discoveries we made on our August 11, 2012 visit which was our 3rd trip to the site. I should mention that we saw no bears or bear signs but I did see a very large 6-7 foot black snake (not poisonous) on the side of the trail leading to the site. It was curled up like a cobra but not aggressive, but disappeared when we approached. It probably came down to drink from the pools of water that had formed on the trail after a rain. One of our goals was to find better articulated fern seeds which are somewhat rare. The fossil seeds we found so far were obviously seeds but not well defined - as usual, Nancy turned up some terrific seeds (I found one) - including a really amazing seed with the seed stem attached to the fern! This is especially cool because I read recently in a book from the 1870s that reported that "no Alethopteris fern seed had been found that was actually attached to the fern" - only a century ago, paleobotanists were still looking for this exact type of sample (seed attached to Alethopteris fern). Of course our sample is not a discovery but it is somewhat rare and as you can see, we accomplished this goal for our trip, finding several good seed fossils. We were also looking for an Odontopteris fern which we had not discovered yet and examples are included here. One of the most impressive finds was an iridescent section of Calamites bark which shimmers in different colors including blue - nearby was another sample that has a coppery color and shimmer. Hard to capture with a camera but I think you can see the effect in the photos. We won't get back to St. Clair for awhile, maybe not again this year - but we were VERY pleased with the results of focusing on just a few hard to find targets, settling for fewer fossils but better quality. We are AMAZED how many different species are included at this site, almost every major type of Pennsylvanian plant fossil in the major fossil books are found in this fossil pit, all very close to each other. This area must have been tremendously diverse. Also, if you're seeking to identify your fern fossils, Monte Hieb has created an EXCELLENT site on the plant fossils of West Virginia that provides photos and details on identification for each species - great site, highly recommended: http://www.geocraft....ableOfCont.html On this trip, we came away with an important lesson. It's not the quantity of the fossils from St. Clair, it's the quality that counts. Many rare species are found in the cast-offs around the dug-out pits scattered around the site. It helps to have a hammer and chisel because fracturing open even the smaller pieces can reveal lots of exciting surprises. Nancy's best seed (the one with the stem) came from "fracking open" a piece of shale (see Alethopteris 1c below). We are now examining our St. Clair fossils with a closeup camera lens, inspecting smaller pieces to see what we have. This morning Nancy pointed out a very small cone-shaped fossil on the edge of a larger piece of shale that she says "looks like a fish tooth" - it's probably just a small branch or stem but it does have some intriguing qualities that pose some ID challenges - I'll post several views in the Fossil ID section and see what the site experts have to say. As you can see if you've read our previous posts, we're really having fun with this and in addition to displaying our finds, we hope to do something one day either in a small e-book guide for new fossil hunters, or on a website, or both - maybe in a year or so when we have enough samples and knowledge. We're finally starting to zone in on how to quickly identify fern leaves and hopefully can share what we learn in the future when we get more organized. Our most important insight I think is this: we never imagined that plant fossils could be so interesting!
  22. On our 4th visit to St. Clair, we set a goal to find some of those iconic "scale trees" we keep reading about - the now extinct lycopsid trees with the pock-marked "scaled" trunk and roots. The bark is pock marked with scars left by the leaf stalks and rootlets when they fall off. Did we find Scale Trees? Boy, did we ever! In addition to the samples we collected, Nancy and I found some incredibly cool samples embedded in large boulders, on the floor of the quarry, even on the trail - these are either fragile or positioned on boulders so they can't be extracted without shattering them, so they are there for any visitors to photograph and enjoy! We have had wildlife encounters on every visit - a 6 to 8 foot long black snake coiled near a water pool on the trail, fresh black bear tracks on the trail and scat (and a sighting by MZKLEEN the same day we were there), and on this trip a very large spider on the trail (see image). Fossils On Boulders! - The first "embedded" scale tree fossil (Stigmaria - root with rootlets clearly visible) was located on top of a huge boulder - Nancy discovered it and excitedly called me over to see it. It was bright yellow and very well defined as you can see from the picture. I had to climb on other boulders to reach this one, and took a photo with my rock hammer to show the size and scale (Image 1). It was extremely well preserved but it is exposed to the elements and the top of the boulder is very brittle so it is impossible to extract - if someone tries, it will almost certainly be destroyed. The second sample I discovered on a boulder at the other end of the quarry (Image 2 - you can see my boot on the boulder), and Nan discovered a third which I photographed to show the surrounding woods (Image 3). Finding these and just looking at them was thrilling, like touching history. We hope other collectors leave these as monuments for everyone to enjoy (and don't destroy them by trying to whack off some fragments). NEW QUESTION: Most of the fossil samples we see online show the scale tree bark with "leaf scars" but very seldom show the leaves attached. How do we know when the samples are roots and rootlets, or branches and leaves? Some of the Stigmaria we collected look like branches or small trunks with leaves but most people are telling me that these are all roots. Would appreciate clarification. What do the scale tree branches with leaves attached look like? We also saw extremely large trunks of Calamites and Lepidodendron beginning to show through the floor of the quarry near the boulders - this is very dramatic and as more shale wears away the erosion will reveal more of these really large trunks (this is up the slope directly above bottom area with all the large boulders, behind the large boulder covered with white crystals). It was really cool to find these white and golden yellow-tinged scale tree fossils in plain sight on large boulders - it really brought these trees to life, showing the leaf scars and rootlets that look like thorns spreading directly out from the trunk). Ironically, we didn't notice these scale trees on our first three visits - we did collect a few Calamites and Siggularia bark pieces then, but nothing special. Making Scale Trees (Lepidodendron) our TARGET forced us to focus on this and suddenly, we noticed that they were concentrated in certain areas that we never noticed before. Nancy found the last embedded scale tree (Stigmaria) fossil right on floor of the quarry trail - it was going to be destroyed by traffic so I checked it out and saw that it appeared to be loose and to my surprise, it popped out in two pieces - this is a cool piece because the pattern is white like most St. Clair ferns. The first photo (4a) shows the fossil embedded in the trail - it doesn't look like much and is actually hard to see (Nancy's keen eyes spotted it right away) - the second photo (4b) shows the recovered fossil. Collected Samples - We excavated some samples to bring home, and also found some nice samples that other collectors had discarded from fossil pits - you can see how interesting the patterns are. The roots with rootlets attached are not easy to find - as you can see, all of our samples have rootlets attached) - they make nice displays (Images 5, 6 and 7). The two fossils in Image 7 were revealed after segmenting a piece of shale. Annularia and Calamites - The last Image shows a single rock specimen that shows up in two different colors. It looks like two separate pieces but they are actually attached - the top part shows Annularia including a unique fossil that is a cross-section showing the stem in the center and the leaves radiating out like a star, and lots of smaller fronds. The bottom section shows pieces of the Calamites bark associated with Annularia. This makes for a nice display piece. We will display these fossils and also use them as illustrations for future articles and maybe a book - we also reinforced our strategy of setting specific goals for each trip, such as looking for a specific type of fossil species, or category, or even just agreeing to aim for a large size display fossil. This determines how we approach each site, where we explore, and even how we excavate. After 4 visits to St. Clair, we still find it to be new and exciting even as it gets more familiar on each trip - we're sure that you probably feel the same way about your favorite sites, especially if they are close to your home.
  23. After my original post I learned that the feathery fossils are probably leaves of a scale tree - maybe emergent leaves. They are often described as "similar to conifers" and are feathery as you can see. Are they Lepidodendron leaves or Siggilaria or Calamites? There are also listings in the literature of "LONG" grass-like leaf appendages coming straight out from the above ground (or above water) trunks of the Lepidodendron tree. How do we tell if the side appendages are long leaves or rootlets? One type of leaf appendage is often described as coming straight out from the trunk, looking more like grass, and this is confusing. In the fossils we have found, there appear to be rootlets coming out from the underground (or underwater) trunk stems, but in some fossils it looks like the long appendages are coming out from the above-water trunk because they are long and leaf shaped and do not look like rootlets. Interested in references clarifying the leaf types. The images of small feathery leaves came from cracking open already-thin shale pieces from the St. Clair fossil pits (Llewellyn Formation, Carboniferous/Pennsylvanian, St. Clair, 300-308 mya). The images of the core trunk stems with appendages were excavated from the shale floor of the fossil pit. An example of the larger specimens showing the appendages coming out from the sides is included - some people believe these are rootlets but they may also be leaves coming out from the trunk....ideas? These files are listed as Lepidodendron but actually if it's a root it is called Stigmaria (which includes roots of Lepidodendron and Siggilaria - if the shoots coming out the sides are LEAVES then they are designated Lepidophylloides).
  24. Fossil Fern Cupule - Archaeopteris?

    I've been pondering this fossil from St. Clair and it looks like a "cupule" that encloses a seed or spore and I'm thinking that it might be cupules at the end of a node - maybe archaeopteris. Is anyone familiar with these fossil plant cupules who might shed some light on this? One of the very surprising things we're learning about fossil plants (Pennsylvanian) is that many of the ferns and horsetails had different shaped leaves or leaf configurations on the same plant, such as the microphylls on the trunk, cupules that enclosed seeds, and young round leaves versus older elongated leaves (neuropteris for example). Still learning about paleobotany at St. Clair where we've been collecting - fascinating.
  25. Sticks And Stones...stems?

    We're taking a closer look at our finds from St. Clair and one of the more interesting fossils is a well articulated stem of some sort - about 7 cm long - broken into two sections. It's in a 3D form attached to the shale so it can be seen from several views. There is a smaller stem fragment associated with it, lying close to the main stem. The last image shows the broken off portion of the main stem. One of the closeups seems to suggest this had a sheath. Also, there is a very thin fossil fragment protruding from the edge of the shale close to the stem that has some texture. There are no closely associated leaves. Not sure there is any way to identify what this might be but interested in ideas, insights, observations.
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