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Ontario region Ordovician trilobites


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Ceraurus

I've started a gallery of trilobites of Laurentia that are in my collection. Most are from Ontario and Quebec, Canada.

I'll also start a gallery of echinoderms from the same units.

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ScottBlooded

Beautiful collection, I’m very jealous

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Hi! I'm in the Ottawa area and have collected in various locations, but only seem to come across hash beds and the occasional complete bug. Do you know of any quarries in Ontario that let you collect in them? I'm aware that that due to liability and over-collecting most quarries don't offer collecting anymore, but considering your impressive collection I'm wondering if you might know any. :)

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Unfortunately, the good days of collecting in Ontario are now behind us. There are virtually no quarries providing access. This means raiding road cuts and spoil piles (I'd be interested to know if Ottawa has a dump site after they put in the extension of the railway downtown in 2016). In Ottawa, you have the Ottawa and Rideau Rivers (the former has been rehabilitated with riprap for erosion control). If memory serves, there are some shale blocs at Carleton University along the Rideau River. There's also Arkona here in SW Ontario, but finding complete trilobites is not a common occurrence any more (but tons of coral, brachs, and byrozoans if those float your boat). Even Collingwood is a no-go for the shale on account of the entire lakefront being private property or a designated provincial park where collecting is forbidden. To be honest, you might have much better luck in Quebec.

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On 8/7/2022 at 3:50 PM, Ceraurus said:

You have to know where to look. It’s not quite as bad as that. 

Yes, due diligence and satellite work is essential, but you have to admit the halcyon days are over. When we got barred access to one quarry that was the beginning of a bad slide. Bowmanville is also out now. Those fantastically productive places we used to read about are no longer accessible to us. That is the sad reality of collecting in Ontario.

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Can’t keep collecting at the same old places, especially when way too many people descend every weekend on a few localities. I have several good places where I am welcome. I don’t share them. Not because I don’t like other collectors, but because so few can keep secrets. 
There are plenty of outcrops along Lake Ontario, eastern Lake Erie and the Ottawa River. Some excavated rock from downtown Ottawa gets used as fill for subdivisions. But the days of a lot of people collecting at a half dozen quarries are over. It was an abuse of hospitality. 
I am still collecting as much as ever. Much of the material I posted was collected in the past ten years. I do my own research and collect with one other guy. Learned the hard way after taking Canadian and American “friends” to good sites and seeing them thrown

open to the crowd. 

Edited by Ceraurus
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At one quarry, the formerly-supportive owner saw fossil collectors skinny dipping in the sump.  He shut the place down to collectors. I think some collectors forgot that these are people's workplaces. Here's a suggestion for people complaining about access to quarries: take safety training (since quarries are the second-dangerous workplaces in Canada, according to Workers' Compensation). Show up with proof of safety training and first aid training. Be dressed and equipped like pros, don't look like Gollum hobos. Make arrangements in normal business hours for weekend access. The people you meet working in quarries don't usually have the power to give you access. Look for independent operators. Corporations like LaFarge will blow you off.

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2 hours ago, Kmcnalley said:

Hi! I'm in the Ottawa area and have collected in various locations, but only seem to come across hash beds and the occasional complete bug. Do you know of any quarries in Ontario that let you collect in them? I'm aware that that due to liability and over-collecting most quarries don't offer collecting anymore, but considering your impressive collection I'm wondering if you might know any. :)

Sorry, I can't share any with you.

Join the EONS (Eastern Ontario Naturalist Society). They have field trips to Ottawa quarries. Some of these quarries are fairly decent. Watch for excavations into black shale downtown and in Vanier. These are classic pyritized Triarthrus layers. I have also found black shale dumped in various places on the edge of the city.

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On 8/7/2022 at 4:30 PM, Ceraurus said:

Can’t keep collecting at the same old places, especially when way too many people descend every weekend on a few localities. I have several good places where I am welcome. I don’t share them. Not because I don’t like other collectors, but because so few can keep secrets. 
There are plenty of outcrops along Lake Ontario, eastern Lake Erie and the Ottawa River. Some excavated rock from downtown Ottawa gets used as fill for subdivisions. But the days of a lot of people collecting at a half dozen quarries are over. It was an abuse of hospitality. 
I am still collecting as much as ever. Much of the material I posted was collected in the past ten years. I do my own research and collect with one other guy. Learned the hard way after taking Canadian and American “friends” to good sites and seeing them thrown

open to the crowd. 

There's a good reason we don't share sites publicly unless our goal is to see them depleted. In this hobby, we all have our honey holes. [removed mischaracterizations]

 

The weekend warriors you cite are fine for known sites that will remain productive for years. Arkona is a good example where we might not find the awesome material that Stumm and Wright did, but for a casual collector who thrills to brachs and coral, there is a lot of value to them. For folks like you and me who are a bit more discerning, we want the pristine trilobites or the plates of complete crinoids. We do the work to make that happen, and we always hope our efforts are rewarded for the time and distance we travel. . 

 

I am more than happy to share sites with a fellow collector who can keep their mouth shut so we can enjoy the site. I love sharing since it really isn't a commercial thing for me. If a friend gets the prize of the day, I am just happy for that person even if I struck out. When we toss in competition and commerciality, we spoil what it is we do. 

 

I am thrilled you have specimens at the ROM. I would love to find more pieces I could donate because we understand scientific significance. 

 

[Removed misinformation about circumstances regarding quarry access]

 

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JD's owner couldn't get past the skinny dipping. Apparently, that really freaked them out, no matter what every other fossil collector did and said. Plus the owner heard some of the fossils collected at his quarry were being sold. I think that was distressing news to him, especially since no one offered to share their earnings. (That's the story he told me, when I tried to work out access for the Toronto-area people and draft a new, iron-clad waiver for him. I'm a lawyer who does these kinds of cases so I figured he might listen. But it was a no-go.) 

In my area, one operator basically rolled out the red carpet after I did a safety and orientation course. These guys aren't worried about being sued, they're concerned their Workers Comp premiums will go through the roof and the provincial labour ministry will be all over them unless they run a pro operation. Naked fossil collectors in a sump is not professional.

I am not sure who you mean by mercenary collectors. I don't know anyone selling Ordovician fossils from Ontario, except for one Montreal-area dealer who collected a bit around Ottawa. Most of his stuff comes from Montreal and Quebec City, The only high-end material I see on the market is the Silurian fauna from northeastern Ontario, which is collected by legitimate operators who have never screwed anyone over as far as I know. As far as the Brechin area goes, I know one preparator/collector made a deal with an independent operator to excavate a shelf in a quarry in that area. Some of the material from that is in the ROM. I don't think he collects at JD and, as far as I know, other than a few online sales a while back, isn't selling, or if he is, it's very low-key. I am sitting on a lot of duplicate material and really have no clue what to do with it. Selling online is more trouble than it's worth.  I'm leaving a lot of stuff in the field, especially if it has any damage. Pretty sure Ontario Ordovician material no longer commands premium prices, or is worth much at all, despite the lack of access to quarries like BMNV and Brechin. An awful lot was sold in the 1980s to 2010s.

As for some of the Brechin quarries, I noticed last time I was over there (close to ten years ago) that they were going through the Verulam into the Bobcaygeon, tougher rock with fewer bugs. But the people who collected JD more recently didn't seem to complain. Brechin is a 5-hour drive for me. Quebec City is closer, and NE Ontario about the same distance. From what I've seen of Quebec, it has more independent operators but you'll need at least one French-speaking person with you because a lot of the rural people, while friendly, can't speak English.

Collecting in N/E New York (crossing at 1000 Islands) is a lot of fun and very worthwhile. You might want to try that. Lots of small pits, stream cuts in the escarpments, streams flowing over limestone, and lovely countryside. Just make sure you don't let the US border people get the idea you're heading there to "work".

 

  

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I very much appreciate your input here. As someone I know who I think I recall a lawyer by trade, you understand this very well. Yes, there are mercenaries, but they don't sell on the auction sites (private sales, mostly), and I know who you are referring to.

 

There is still a market for Ordovician stuff from here. Less material is coming out now apart from older collections.

 

Yeah, Quebec has more operators, but also more access. Mostly the same flexis and Ceraurus and Ectenos. A lot of diggers from Ontario go there now because the diggings are easier.

 

I do appreciate this discussion a lot. Thank you. I'm sure we could tell some campfire tales. 

 

I was born and raised in Ottawa (living now in London, Ontario). Nice to meet you!

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Funny how things work. I was raised at Craigleith (which explains the fossil interest). I used to have a LOT of Pseudogygites and am dismayed that shoreline cottagers have effectively seized the shore itself. I don't believe they actually own it, or that the town has the power to outlaw fossil collecting, as it claims. (The same formation is supposed to crop up on the east coast of Manitoulin. A very similar fauna is found in Ottawa with big moult remains but complete trilobites are rare.)

I used to live in London. I prefer it in many ways to Ottawa. I miss Grand Bend, Port Stanley, and easy access to Toronto, Detroit and Windsor. 

If I lived there now, I'd be looking at the Onondaga Escarpment on east end of Lake Erie, and along the Lake Erie shore itself for new localities. There are some huge calymenes in Ludvigsen's book from Hagersville and as far as I know, no one is chasing them. (If I am wrong and this is problematic, feel free to edit.) There were also localities along railway lines in the Thedford area, but I don't know what happened to them. They may be overgrown as the shale decayed. I visited Pelee Island years ago and noticed crinoid stems on the shoreline but not much else, though the little museum there did have one nice local bug. Much of that shoreline is accessible but don't bring power tools.  

As for the Ordovician, there's been a big collecting bias that a lot of people have fallen into, simply because Cobourg, Verulam and upper Bobcaygeon trilobites are so plentiful. But every Ontario Ordovician formation has trilobites, except the Chazy in Ottawa (as far as anyone knows). They are scarce in the March Oxford but great material can be found in horizons of all the other formations. The stream cuts in the Georgian Bay Formation in Toronto and the Meaford area are full of fossils, including at least four kinds of trilobites. (Five in the Ottawa-area equivalent.) My best and rarest trilobites come from the Gull River Formation, which is 95% nasty rock but has thin units with spectacular material. Almost no one even looks at it, though I hear one major quarry did get recent visitors. My Gull Giver material from Ottawa includes Bathyurus, Thaleops, Raymondites, Bumastoides,  Eomonorachus, Anataphrus and two incredibly rare types of Ceraurus. But I was skunked a lot of times. You have to take risks. No pain, no gain.  I do a lot of exploring, spending at least as much time visiting new places as i do collecting in my favorite spots, even though the explorations usually end with me being skunked. But every once in a while I end up in a new place that's got great stuff and is unknown to collectors. 

And as far as quarries go, my best advice is to find the owners of small independently-run pits, rather than try to get into big operations. Many of these smaller operations are run by local contractors. When you start dealing with corporations, you're up against in-house lawyers who will default to "no" simply because that's the risk-free answer. Outfits like LaFarge just make a policy and that's it. You will never get near the people who are in the pay grades where these policies are made.

As for Ottawa, there are still lots of black shale dumps but, again, newbies should join EONS (DM me for contact info) and go on their field trips. Several people have done very well on these trips.

As for JD, I know who you are alluding to. I think it's a bum rap. The stuff at the ROM is from the place where the Mirellamorph was found. He has permission to mine out a layer that is a spectacular kill zone. It is much better than anything found at JD: giant root-to-crown crinoids of many species, Bufoceraurus, Xylabions, Dolicoharpes, car-tire sized plates of starfish and cystoids. I don't believe G collects at JD or got people kicked out. It doesn't make sense, seeing what he has in the ROM which apparently paid a lot for that stuff. I know where it came from because I am on good terms with that company, too, and it's not JD. The academic paper on the soft tissue animal gives strong clues, as does its name.

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15 hours ago, Ceraurus said:

Funny how things work. I was raised at Craigleith (which explains the fossil interest). I used to have a LOT of Pseudogygites and am dismayed that shoreline cottagers have effectively seized the shore itself. I don't believe they actually own it, or that the town has the power to outlaw fossil collecting, as it claims. (The same formation is supposed to crop up on the east coast of Manitoulin. A very similar fauna is found in Ottawa with big moult remains but complete trilobites are rare.)

I used to live in London. I prefer it in many ways to Ottawa. I miss Grand Bend, Port Stanley, and easy access to Toronto, Detroit and Windsor. 

If I lived there now, I'd be looking at the Onondaga Escarpment on east end of Lake Erie, and along the Lake Erie shore itself for new localities. There are some huge calymenes in Ludvigsen's book from Hagersville and as far as I know, no one is chasing them. (If I am wrong and this is problematic, feel free to edit.) There were also localities along railway lines in the Thedford area, but I don't know what happened to them. They may be overgrown as the shale decayed. I visited Pelee Island years ago and noticed crinoid stems on the shoreline but not much else, though the little museum there did have one nice local bug. Much of that shoreline is accessible but don't bring power tools.  

As for the Ordovician, there's been a big collecting bias that a lot of people have fallen into, simply because Cobourg, Verulam and upper Bobcaygeon trilobites are so plentiful. But every Ontario Ordovician formation has trilobites, except the Chazy in Ottawa (as far as anyone knows). They are scarce in the March Oxford but great material can be found in horizons of all the other formations. The stream cuts in the Georgian Bay Formation in Toronto and the Meaford area are full of fossils, including at least four kinds of trilobites. (Five in the Ottawa-area equivalent.) My best and rarest trilobites come from the Gull River Formation, which is 95% nasty rock but has thin units with spectacular material. Almost no one even looks at it, though I hear one major quarry did get recent visitors. My Gull Giver material from Ottawa includes Bathyurus, Thaleops, Raymondites, Bumastoides,  Eomonorachus, Anataphrus and two incredibly rare types of Ceraurus. But I was skunked a lot of times. You have to take risks. No pain, no gain.  I do a lot of exploring, spending at least as much time visiting new places as i do collecting in my favorite spots, even though the explorations usually end with me being skunked. But every once in a while I end up in a new place that's got great stuff and is unknown to collectors. 

And as far as quarries go, my best advice is to find the owners of small independently-run pits, rather than try to get into big operations. Many of these smaller operations are run by local contractors. When you start dealing with corporations, you're up against in-house lawyers who will default to "no" simply because that's the risk-free answer. Outfits like LaFarge just make a policy and that's it. You will never get near the people who are in the pay grades where these policies are made.

As for Ottawa, there are still lots of black shale dumps but, again, newbies should join EONS (DM me for contact info) and go on their field trips. Several people have done very well on these trips.

As for JD, I know who you are alluding to. I think it's a bum rap. The stuff at the ROM is from the place where the Mirellamorph was found. He has permission to mine out a layer that is a spectacular kill zone. It is much better than anything found at JD: giant root-to-crown crinoids of many species, Bufoceraurus, Xylabions, Dolicoharpes, car-tire sized plates of starfish and cystoids. I don't believe G collects at JD or got people kicked out. It doesn't make sense, seeing what he has in the ROM which apparently paid a lot for that stuff. I know where it came from because I am on good terms with that company, too, and it's not JD. The academic paper on the soft tissue animal gives strong clues, as does its name.

I can't say I favour London culturally or for its public transit compared to Ottawa. :D I was spoiled and didn't realize what I had until I left. But yes we have some minor possibilities here. I am one of the biggest holders of Terataspis specimen fragments in Ontario. Notihng complete yet. But the Devonian of SW Ontaris is  tough slog, or "damnable" as Rudkin says. We found mostly fragments of rare species that even the great Ludvigsen never found because it is largely unrewarding work involving a lot of physical effort (as a very large male even I find it challenging at times busting chert-heavy rocks). Folks like me and Bill Hessin have found some neat things, but formal descriptions are not likely to happen in our lifetime when we can't even formally describe "mafritzae." (which I am aiming to rectify, including the hot mess of our Cheirurids).

 

You are right there is not enough attention paid of Gull River Fm. Absolutely. There is so much to be had there, but most fixate on Verulam or Bobcaygeon because you have more opportunity to come away with finds. That said, some lovely Bathyrurs and Thaleops come out of that material, as well as some lichids!

 

 

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Join the EONS (Eastern Ontario Naturalist Society). They have field trips to Ottawa quarries. Some of these quarries are fairly decent.

:Smiling:

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what a fun discussion to eavesdrop on.  I say this as a guy who also does a lot of research and puts time into finding good spots.

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I would like to make some clarifications to this thread in the hope of dispelling some misinformation. I have just posted some background information on the new member intro thread that will provide a little context.

 

With respect to the changes in company policy at JD Aggregate regarding fossil collecting there are a number of factors that should be noted.

 

First, this quarry was the last aggregate operator in the Lake Simcoe area to allow fossil collecting of any kind.  All of the others had closed their doors as a result of their historical experience with collectors when they were allowed access. This was a sort of "golden age" for fossil collecting and resulted in a "gold rush" of individuals competing for material on a weekly basis during the season. There may have been abuses of this privilege but it would be fair to say that the main reason these quarries closed their doors was a cold-eyed assessment of risk in the face of a revised Aggregate Act and the supporting regulations for mining workplace safety that began to be rigorously enforced. Any informed discussion of this topic should be supported by reading the mining regs and an understanding of how the Ontario Govt. enforces these.

 

The open door policy at JD was an artifact of a more relaxed period for fossil collectors that began under the supervision of one of its longest serving foremen.  Quarry workers were generally friendly with collectors and waivers were made easily accessible at the scale house during working hours and at the gate on weekends. Over a twenty-year period this policy or really, a lack of a policy remained unchanged even as other operators responded to the new regulatory regime by restricting access to workers and contractors. The quarry itself was considered to be a distant outpost in a growing corporation and rarely gained attention by its operational executives.

 

My collaboration with this company began in 2013 when I initiated a project to study the Lagerstatte discovered at The Tomlinson quarry near Dalrymple. Part of the research to be conducted involved sampling at other quarries such as JD, Lafarge, and the Carden site to correlate sections that would result in a revision of the regional stratigraphy (Paton and Brett 2018). The owners of JD Aggregate took an interest in the research as the son of the CEO was a geology student and several meetings took place at the quarry to explain the paleontology and demonstrate field techniques.  At the time I proposed an idea for a public access fossil site away from the working area that would accommodate school groups and even tourism. The idea was greeted positively and I was given permission to create a demonstration area. It took a few years but eventually I invested the time to excavate a bench near the top of the quarry to expose layers of the Verulam formation which would be ideal for this purpose.

 

A meeting was scheduled with members of the comnpanys management team which just happened to coincide with a working day when a large group of collectors were excavating a layer near the bottom of the quarry along a ramp leading to a new lift.  To say the least, they were staggered by the sight of private individuals openly excavating rock by hand at the core of their licensed aggregate operation. The new quarry foreman was hard pressed to answer their questions and justify their presence. They were quite disturbed by what they saw. Their main concerns were enough for them to suspend access immediately:

 

1. The presence of private individuals in a working area during a working day presented risks that would affect their insurance obligations;

2. OHSA inspectors if present would immediately cite the quarry for non-compliance with mining regulations based on the behavior of the individuals;

3. The idea that some or all the individuals were commercial operators effectively running a business within their place of business;

4. That these individuals were not likely to be insured for work in stone quarry or certified by training;

5. That it was unlikely that these individuals declared income, paid taxes or WSIP premiums for this activity;

6. That no formal risk assessment had been carried out for fossil collecting which would identify best practices and determine overall risk;

7. That the waiver written decades ago was useless to indemnify the quarry or even properly identify fossil collectors;

8. The waiver itself actually exposed the quarry to liability; and

9: That this activity was unattended by a quarry employee and that weekend access would be completely unsupervised.

 

There also seemed to be no benefit to the quarry operators. To the companys knowledge, collectors worked for themselves, reported no information, contributed nothing to science nor education and shared neither fossils nor photos with the company. Any accident or injury would inevitably result in fines, penalties and temporary closure of the entire operation. 

 

The foreman was instructed to close access. Unfortunately, the next weekend coincided with the annual fossil clubs trip to Bowmanville which brought an influx of visitors to JD the day after. Apparently, the foreman had been persuaded by local collectors to ignore his instructions and allow access to continue. I have heard this directly from a person who was present on that particular day.

 

In the aftermath, a new policy was forcibly put in place. Access would be restricted to credentialed researchers only after completion of a formal risk assessment and work plan. Nobody but the company CEO could sign off on quarry access for fossil collecting or geological sampling. The quarry foreman was dismissed from his job and while acting against his instructions in this case may not have been the only reason, it was certainly a major factor.

 

It should be interesting to add that the following year, I carried out a full risk assessment of fossil collecting activities with company staff to an almost microscopic level of detail. The result was surprising.  While obvious actions like climbing a vertical rock face or employing a rock saw on a vertical face were expressly forbidden by the mining regulations seemingly less risky actions such as walking across a blast pile could not offer any opportunities for mitigation.  So citing the use of PPEs (boots, hard hat, etc.) doesn't begin to address the risks inherent in fossil collecting in a working mining pit. Sure, climbing a vertical face or blast pile with a rock saw is among the skills that experienced fossil collectors use to expertly navigate a stone quarry. From the point of view of the aggregate operator, however, these present risks that are both unnecessary to their operation and potentially costly.

 

It's unfortunate that the discussion included references to unconfirmed anecdotes and vague accusations of lying as well as unworthy characterizations of individuals as "mercenary".  I have not identified any individuals by name, however the moderator here has self-declared as a participant in the same kind of excavation that resulted in the collecting ban at JD. It is far too easy to blame a single person without an informed account of what actually led to the current situation.

 

I fully understand the attraction of fossil collecting as both a rewarding recreation and as an adventurous vocation. Access to quarries is much more difficult than it was twenty years ago. Fortunately, there are still places where access is possible on the basis of trust alone. Some fossil clubs such as EONS in the Ottawa area have become adept at negotiating access to quarry sites. My suggestion to determined collectors is to use these resources and build upon them to the point of developing good personal relations with quarry supervisors, management or owners. Please be good citizens for the sake of us all.

 

GK

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Thank you @dunk for the clarification and informative explanation. I never truly knew why (until now) we were barred entry, and never heard the whole tale -- just vague snippets. I came in at the tail end of collecting at that location, so missed much of those gold rush days, and of that I may have had about only three opportunities there. Of course, much of my physical collecting days in the field are behind me now as I pivot to other things. My apologies for any mischaracterizations about the state of collecting in Ontario from my lack of better information. To mitigate those, it is best I remove them. 

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