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Found 9 results

  1. After a year and a half of searching followed by 6 months of time and effort related to buying, packing, moving, unpacking, and selling, Tammy and I are finally translocated to the Gainesville, FL area and out of South Florida. Hopefully, we'll have less hurricanes to deal with and significantly less year-round yard work to tend to. I'm leaving the riding lawn mower behind and hope to do less weeding and yard work in the new house. We specifically looked for a house without a lot of grass to mow and our house has only a narrow strip adjoining our neighbor's lawn. Our neighbor's son owns a lawn and landscaping business and is nice enough to cut his dad's lawn. It would be literally 2 passes with the mower so we're working out a deal with him so I never have to cut the grass again. The new house is on a little less than an acre but is surrounded on three sides by dense trees. The backyard slopes down to a creek that delimits the back boundary of the property. I had it on good authority that this was a fossiliferous creek and a few minutes a couple days back with a shovel and a sifting screen were sufficient to prove that assertion. Pretty fine gravel and so the shark and ray teeth are mostly pretty small (megs may be scarce here) but as a proof of concept I can state that I now have a continuous supply of fossils from my very own yard. Not the deciding factor in choosing this property (location, the neighborhood, and the wooded low-maintenance lot were more important) but nice to be able to have friends with kids over for a fossil hunt without leaving the yard (when that becomes a reality again post-pandemic). Other than to escape hurricanes and yard work, our motivation for relocating to a slightly higher latitude was to be closer to the University of Florida. We enjoy going out to the volunteer fossil digs and I've been eager to start volunteering more with the FLMNH (Florida Museum of Natural History). Due to the unusual times we find ourselves in the midst of presently, the volunteer program at the FLMNH is somewhat suspended. They can't have volunteers coming into the prep lab to work on jacketed specimens or doing the other volunteer efforts for the museum. Fortunately, I enjoy picking fossils from micro-matrix--I've processed countless 5-gallon buckets of matrix from Cookiecutter Creek, the Peace River, and other locations. I have a stacked set of sifting screens for classifying matrix and very functional lighted magnifier for looking through the more coarse material. For the finer (millimeter scale) micro-matrix my digital camera microscope and a large flat-screen TV monitor make efficient work of picking the finest material for interesting tiny treasures. http://www.thefossilforum.com/index.php?/topic/95821-optimizing-my-search-technique-for-picking-fine-micro-matrix/ I've been waiting nearly 2 years to be able to volunteer some effort into working down the large backlog of accumulated bags of matrix from the volunteer dig sites. One of these days I'm sure I'll come across a bag of micro-matrix from one of the grid squares that I myself have dug at some time in the past. Till then I've just gotten started looking through my first batch of washed and dried matrix from the Montbrook dig site SW of Gainesville. This is a really interesting late Miocene site with some really remarkable finds. A goodly amount of the described taxa in the faunal list for this site are represented only as micro-fossils. It is very interesting to see what is hiding in the micro-matrix as usually we only see the larger "macro" fossils that turn up while digging in the assigned grid square (ubiquitous turtle pieces, gator teeth and bones, the occasional large gomphothere bone, and other interesting species). Picking through the screen washed and dried matrix (which removes the sand, clay and fine silt) turns up lots of tiny bone fragments but aslo surprising number of complete toe bones (phalanges) from turtle, gator and other species. These weight-bearing bones are often very dense and fossilize unusually well as complete specimens. There are also enough ganoid garfish scales to pave an airport runway. One of the most common millimeter-scale fossils is the extremely abundant stingray (Dasyatis) teeth which along with tiny Rhizoprionodon shark teeth make picking the finest matrix continuously interesting. https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/montbrook/faunal-list/ I'm still learning the faunal composition of this matrix (different in many ways from Cookiecutter Creek) and hope to soon find some the less common taxa like rodent teeth and some of the more unusual amphibians. I did start seeing an unusual type of fossil turning up with regularity. I had no idea what it was but a continuous supply of these tiny (just a few millimeters) cupped structures which look like microscopic canoes kept showing up in the finest size class matrix. I took a group photo of these little oddities and inquired with Richard Hulbert to see if they had been identified. Richard thought they appeared to be part of some invertebrate and sent the specimens to Roger Portell who is in charge of the invertebrate side of the FLMNH collection. They did analysis and found them to be composed of calcium phosphate which is usually (but not always) associated with vertebrate fossils (inverts tending to use calcium carbonate more commonly for their skeletal structures). For a while they thought these might be some sort of mouth part from a shrimp or other type of crustacean but that lead didn't pan out. Finally, they managed to contact someone who was well familiar with these objects and a certain identification was made. I'd have never guessed what these were in a million years thinking initially that they sort of resembled some sort of botanical seed pod (which they clearly were not based on their composition). It turns out that these little ovoid cupped structures are from frogs and are the vomerine (upper palate) teeth located behind the maxillary teeth which are embedded in the jaw. These teeth are thought to help in grasping prey items. None of the frog's teeth are actually used for chewing as prey are swallowed whole. I don't believe frogs shed vomerine teeth the way sharks go through a continuous supply of renewable teeth so I'm guessing that frogs must have been pretty common in this fossil habitat and that these solid vomerine teeth preferentially fossilize better than the thinner and less calcified other bones of the skeleton which are not as well represented at the site. Frog vomerine teeth! Who'd have thunk it? This nearly rivals the famous Merritt Island micro-matrix in which Julianna @old bones found her tree frog phalanx, thus giving it the alternative name of "frog toe micro-matrix". Cheers. -Ken
  2. For several years now we've been fortunate enough to be able to take part in volunteer digs with the Florida Museum of Natural History (FLMNH), University of Florida (Gainesville). The site was discovered at the end of 2015 and we've been participating during the dig seasons (the drier cooler part of the year) since 2016. The site is on private property but the landowner is very enlightened and understands the importance of this site which gives a rare glimpse into the Hemphillian North American Land Mammal Age (NALMA) period dating around 5.0-5.5 mya. The owner has been very supportive of letting the museum (and its staff, students, and volunteers) onto his property and even helps quite frequently using his excavators to clear the overburden and manage the site for drainage. You can learn more about the site and the finds here: https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/montbrook/ We were previously out to the site last November digging in the main pit. Tammy found some nice gomphothere bones and I dug a rather sterile sandy grid square but happened upon a cache of over a dozen associated gator osteoderms--both the larger circular ones from the back and the elongated ones from the border of the tail. The site is closing for the season at the end of March so we found some time in our schedule to make the trip north for a final dig before the site gets tarped for the summer. We had planned on heading up on Sunday evening for the dig on Monday through Wednesday but it is nice to have flexibility in our schedule. Tammy and I are looking to relocate to the Gainesville area so that I can volunteer more with the FLMNH (and attend these digs more often). We've been looking at houses in the Gainesville area for several months now and periodically make the 5 hour drive from South Florida to see properties of interest. Late Thursday a property that looked interesting popped-up. We decided to modify our schedule to drive up early Friday morning instead. Unfortunately, (as is often the case) the house and property looked better online than in person. We visited a few other newer properties in the area and then decided to head up to Jacksonville (about a 1.5 hour drive) to stay with friends over the weekend. Hotels tend to bump up their rates over the weekends--We've seen hotel rates triple in Gainesville when the alumni return for Florida Gators home football games. We spent an enjoyable weekend with our friends up in JAX and headed back down on Sunday (getting in an open house viewing before checking into our hotel in Gainesville). We were ready for our 3-day dig at Montbrook starting the next morning.
  3. Last week I visited one of my favorite spots for fossil shells. Out near St. Leonard, MD (Calvert Cliffs) there is a spot where a landslide carried matrix loaded with shells out into the bay. Today, all that remains is a shelf of packed sand visible only at very low tide, and a layer of shells -mostly broken- on the bay floor. You never know what you'll find, though. This time I found more than two dozen different species, most of them withe specimens in good enough condition to be keepers. Back home in Delaware, I sorted everything out. My collection is big enough that I try to keep the best examples and not bring home bucket loads. I'm running out of shelves, and for the sake of domestic tranquility I don't overload the house with boxes all in one shot. In this case, however, I did bring home bucket loads. I had another agenda. I started volunteering at the Delaware Museum of Natural History's Collections and Research Dept., which prides itself on its Mollusk collection, a few months ago. They were looking for a volunteer to sort, classify and catalogue their Florida fossil shells. Turns out that they had exactly 3 fossil shells from Maryland, all of which I donated last fall. This month, both the Collection Manager and I are fixing that problem. I spent yesterday morning at home cleaning the first batch of shells and picking out the nicer ones to bring along, then spent a quiet, happy afternoon in the cool, shady archives identifying every piece. Eventually, it will all go not only into their private database, but a searchable online database with detailed photos for other researchers. Now to go scrape away more matrix lumps and see what else I can find!
  4. Hi everyone, I'm turning the big 50 in November (eek), and I want to do something really fun - I was hoping to find some sort of fossil hunting trip either in the US or internationally - ideally would have liked to volunteer on a dinosaur dig somewhere but mid-November doesn't seem to bring anything up. If anyone has any ideas, much appreciated ! I'm looking on my own as well. Thanks
  5. I've written trip reports before about volunteering with the Florida Museum of Natural History (FLMNH) at their various dig sites in Florida. The currently (very) active site is called Montbrook for a small town that used to be in the area (but is no more). Here are a few links from FLMNH which provide some contextual information about the site: https://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/museum-voices/montbrook/ https://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/florida-vertebrate-fossils/sites/mont/ https://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/museum-voices/montbrook/2016/09/07/why-montbrook/ The site has yielded an impressive number of specimens and is very important scientifically as it provides the best view of Florida fauna from the late Hemphillian (Hh4) North American Land Mammal Age (NALMA) from approximately 5.5-5.0 mya. The other significant locality for this age is the Palmetto Fauna a couple hundred miles south of the Montbrook site. More info here for those interested in the stratigraphy: https://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/florida-vertebrate-fossils/land-mammal-ages/hemphillian/ https://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/florida-vertebrate-fossils/sites/palmetto-fauna/ Here is a link to my Montbrook posting from 2016 showing the couple of times I managed to get out there--the last time with TFF members Daniel @calhounensis and John-Michael @Brown Bear: http://www.thefossilforum.com/index.php?/topic/63056-volunteer-dig-with-the-flmnh/ Now, enough of the links and time for a few pictures! The Montbrook site has changed quite a bit over the last year since I've been able to get out there. We had plans to return to Montbrook last October but Hurricane Matthew was an uninvited guest to Florida that week and the dig site was tarped down and the dig cancelled. Thankfully, the hurricane left my house untouched (didn't really even get rain or wind of note) and didn't mess-up the Montbrook site but we did miss an opportunity for one last trip to Montbrook in 2016. When we returned in February 2017 it took some time to get my bearings. The deeper pit to the east where several gomphothere skulls, tusks and long bones had been removed did not weather the rainy season well. This section has been backfilled with about 5 feet of sand and clay from the higher levels during the summer rain storms. For now they will concentrate digging on the main pit to the west and hope to get back to the lower "elephant" layer some time in the future--though the prep work to remove the overburden and get back to the original level will be significant. So much material has been moved from the upper western dig area that it was hard to picture exactly where we had dug nearly a year ago. I'm still not quite sure where we were in 2016 as the site has evolved greatly since our last visit. On Thursday and Friday there were mostly just a few volunteers who could make it to the site on weekdays--mainly retired folks or those with flexible schedules like us who could volunteer during the week. On Saturday there were a lot more volunteers and the dig site became a bit more crowded so you had to be aware of others digging sometimes in the grid square adjacent to yours. Here are some overall site photos I took on Saturday and you can see the line-up of cars that brought a full capacity of volunteers.
  6. The Florida Museum of Natural History (FLMNH) at Gainesville, FL has announced the schedule of digging at the new Montbrook site near Ocala, FL. This is a great opportunity for volunteers to assist in excavating this site alongside representatives from FLMNH who are very knowledgeable in the types of fossils found at the site. I've volunteered for FLMNH digs several times in the past couple of years and always found it a rewarding experience. I managed to make it out twice to the new Montbrook site before the site was closed-up for the summer (heat and rains). The new dig season will kick-off October 1 and run through December 18 (and after a holiday break will run through May 2017). This site is on private property and the museum is eager to pull as much fossil material from this important site as possible as soon as possible as they don't have the luxury of owning the site like they do with the Thomas Farm site. So far the owner of this new site has been very gracious and accommodating in letting FLMNH retrieve many important fossils from the site and seem to be willing to let the dig continue (but you never know how things could change). As this is a volunteer dig for the museum, all fossils get bagged (or jacketed) and go back into the museum's collection. You will be listed as the collector on record for all of the specimens that are accessioned into the museum's permanent collection. A great way to contribute to the knowledge of the Florida fossil record from the late Hemphillian (~5.5-5.0 mya) and learn a lot while doing so. Check out the links below for a more detailed description of the site and a the schedule and application form to submit (if you haven't volunteered with FLMNH before). If you want to dig on an important fossil-rich site in northern Florida don't let this opportunity pass you by. Plenty of dates over the next 8 months so pick a date if you are local or plan a trip if you are coming in from out of state. Trust me--it'll be an experience you'll long remember. http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/florida-vertebrate-fossils/sites/mont/ http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/vertpaleo/volunteering/field/ Cheers. -Ken (Photo shamelessly stolen from the FLMNH page on Montbrook--don't think they'll mind.)
  7. I took the opportunity to volunteer with the Florida Museum of Natural History (FLMNH) in April of 2014 and had a great time (though it was off to a rough start with a rain out on the first weekend we tried. We finally did manage to do some digging and found a spectacular carnivore mandible toward the end of the dig which was our "trip-maker". For anybody who missed this tale, you can find it here: http://www.thefossilforum.com/index.php?/topic/45220-thomas-farm-volunteer-dig-spring-2014/ I missed the Thomas Farm dig in 2015 as I was out of the country playing a coral reef scientist on TV (one of my numerous avocational interests). When the opportunity came around this year I jumped on it. Because of the new Montbrook site that the FLMNH is working this year, they are spending a limited time (5 days) at Thomas Farm this year--so not wanting to miss any of the fun, I signed up for the entire 5 day dig. The new Montbrook site dig will continue through mid-May and I encourage any who have the opportunity to give it a try. I'll probably try to get back there once more before the end of the season. Here is my report from a month ago: http://www.thefossilforum.com/index.php?/topic/63056-volunteer-dig-with-the-flmnh/ So anyway, back to Thomas Farm. The section I was digging back in 2014 (which they continued in 2015) was now dug down deep enough that they wanted to balance out the area by going back to a section that they haven't dug for several years. When I was there last it had an aluminum frame car port with a canvas top covering a cache of sandbags and some other stored gear. They moved all of those sandbags up out of the digging area to ground level near the outbuilding on site. The plan is to dig this area down to match the level of the adjacent section which is now quite a bit lower. They like to try to keep things relatively level as it promotes good water run-off during the rainy season (though Florida seems to have nothing but a rainy season this year). For anybody who has been to the Thomas Farm site in the recent past, here is what the site looks like now:
  8. Over a month ago I mentioned the opportunity to volunteer for a dig with the Florida Museum of Natural History (FLMNH). In addition to the Thomas Farm sinkhole locality, this year a new opportunity opened up on a small-scale sand mining operation on private property. Some interesting bones were uncovered and the university's vertebrate paleontology department was called to come have a look. They did some initial digging and uncovered rhino and Gomphothere bones with some of them partially articulated. This sounded exciting enough for me to check into. Here's the link to the earlier posting just in case this excitement is infectious: http://www.thefossilforum.com/index.php?/topic/60662-volunteer-opportunities-with-the-flmnh/ My wife Tammy and I had planned on going in mid-March but a scheduling conflict for the weekend we'd chosen made us move it up a few weeks. They did most Saturdays but not every Sunday and we wanted to make best use of the weekend so we chose the 4-day block of time from March 3-6. We drove up from South Florida the night before and booked into our hotel in Ocala. Following the well-written directions from Dr. Richard Hulbert, we found the quarry and joined the volunteer team precisely at the appointed time of 10:00am (they work from 10:00am-4:30pm). We were introduced to the layout of the site and picked up our tools: flat-blade screwdriver, small trowel, pill jar for small finds, small plastic bags for finds that come out in pieces (to facilitate reassembly), and a larger bag to contain all of our finds. We decided to work together on a single square meter of the plot and so Dr. Hulbert found us a grid square where we had room to work from both sides. It was a square that was partially leveled and our job was to complete the leveling and recover whatever fossils lay within. Some of the other squares had interesting finds visible in them. One had a plaster-jacketed partial alligator skeleton (with skull) and another that was being worked on had Gomphothere (shovel-tusker elephant relative) bones including several associated ribs. The area we were digging in had been turning up lots of snapping turtle remains and as we progressed in our grid square we found more. Here's a look at the work site:
  9. Exciting times in Florida. The Florida Museum of Natural History (FLMNH) has announced the volunteer opportunities for 2016. More information can be found directly from their website: http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/vertpaleo/volunteering/field/ This year the Thomas Farm site will have a limited opportunity for field work--April 4-8 which is a Monday-Friday (no weekends). The reason for the minimal field work at Thomas Farm is actually for a good reason--they are focused on a brand new site! A new fossil site (on private property) southwest of Gainesville near the town of Williston is showing signs of being spectacular. Unlike the random disarticulated finds at the Thomas Farm sinkhole, the new site seems to contain some associated skeletons. They have already found gomphothere and rhino and there have been signs of llama, horse, and some carnivores. Additionally, there is a high diversity of turtles (6 species so far) as well as fish and gators. The sign-up for Thomas Farm won't be till early March but the extended field season at the new site is already underway (started last Saturday). The link above contains an application form with the schedule of days that they are digging at this new site. If you've got the opportunity and interest to see a brand new site as it is uncovered, don't miss this opportunity--you'll regret it later if you do. I encourage any TFF members looking for a rewarding volunteer experience to give this a try. If you do, you are, of course, obligated to take lots of cool photos and post a trip report here. I'm going to try to make time for the short Thomas Farm week and I've already put in for a block of time in mid-March at the new site. If I have the time I'll try to make it up for a second trip to the new site before the season is over on May 13. Don't delay--volunteer opportunities to work side-by-side with experts like Dr. Richard Hulbert don't come along every day. [End of infomercial] Cheers. -Ken
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