Guest N.AL.hunter

For The New Collectors,

53 posts in this topic

Don't be afraid to ask the questions. Everytime I collect I get home and go through my specimens and always have a couple that I look at and ask myself "why did I pick this up?" Most of the time it's just a rock, but sometime you find something neat. Besides, all true fossil collectors have a "rock" garden.

The only stupid question is the one not asked. Happy hunting!!

I have a vast rock garden full of all sorts of " wish it could have been". Thanks Herb for the positivity! I agree there is never a stupid question! :D

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My wife and I went on our first trip in June 2012 - visited 5 separate sites and came back with so many interesting finds that we became instantly hooked on this fascinating hobby. Here are our initial reactions including some of the "best practices" that have helped us to find our best fossils:

1. We started by going on an organized fossil hunting trip (organized by Cathy Young, VP of the Delaware Valley Paleontology group). This gave us the context and support we needed, and took us to some great sites. Our first site was Red Hill which is iconic because it's where the earliest tetrapods crawling onto land were documented. We also found the "first reported example" of a cephalopod at Antes Creek. We read about the sites we would visit in advance so we would have some advance knowledge - fortunately, virtually every site you might visit are written about by someone, somewhere - sometimes there are whole books and articles/websites about a specific site.

2. Fossil collecting is all about recognizing shapes, designs and patterns. We post our most confusing finds on the Fossil ID forum here and have been delighted with the results/response from fellow members. We also bought some fossil ID books, some of which date from the 19th Century!

3. We got rock hammers and 3 different types of chisels on the Internet, a small tool bag (at Sears), wide brimmed hats, and went to Eastern Mountain Sports to get "day backpacks" that hold our tools, water (important) and can carry a lot of specimens. We preserve our finds by wrapping them in aluminum foil and crinkling the foil to cushion the rocks from rubbing against each other. We put delicate small finds such as actual fossil shells in small cylinder shaped plastic containers we found at Sears. When we get home, we put our finds on a card table and sort them - where appropriate, we coat them with a misture of 50/50 elmer's glue and water, or with superglue although superglue seems to provide a slight sheen to the fossils. Elmer's glue can yellow over time but is recommended by many fossil collectors, and superglue is stronger and harder to work with, and often leaves a shiny surface. We got some very inexpensive plastic storage units at Staples and use this to label and store our "collection."

4. Figuring out where to "dig" or "search" a site is critical. At Red Hill I saw an outcropping sticking out from the cliff face that had an overburden that looked like it might have "protected" what was underneath - this was combined with a margin between the fossilized red shale (which is fossilized soil) and green shale (which is fossilized dried pond/swamp mud). That gave us our wonderful assortment of Devonian fish scales, dorsal fins and teeth. We have discovered it is VERY rare to find fossils of Devonian fish, although Devonian shales cover most of NY and PA.

5. We take closeup photos and inspect closely all fossil rocks we bring back, which has revealed a lot of great finds - where appropriate we fragment shale or limestone pieces, which has also revealed unexpected finds. The closeups show details that are often needed (such as patterns on shells) to make identifications.

6. Since our first trip we have arranged our own private trip to Tully NY - for this trip we contacted the local historian at Tully NY and asked for information on the site we wanted to visit - she gave us contact info for the owner, who we called and he graciously gave us permission to collect at the site. If you look at our "Tully" finds listed on this site, you can see that a half day of collecting was extremely productive. It takes some nerve to call a stranger and ask about collecting at a site, but we know this is the proper approach and it seems that most people are very accommodating. Also, once we stopped at a roadcut on a major highway and two state police cars stopped, lights flashing, to ask what we were doing and when we explained we were just looking to see if any fossils were there (actually there were none that we saw) - the officer immediately relaxed and was very congenial and friendly. Technically, you're not supposed to stop on many highways so we're not sure how future roadcut investigations will go, but we plan to check out some northeast roadcuts that we've seen from the highway that look "fossilerious."

7. Currently, we are using our desktop publishing skills and photography interest to document our finds and organize them on pages that are included here and there on this site. Eventually we may organize them into some sort of book which is easy to put on the Internet or self-publish - we're thinking this is not for profit but would be a fun way to share our insights, lessons, and discoveries with other collectors esp. beginners.

Last but most important - we believe that "fracking" open sheets of shale or limestone is like opening a box of Cracker Jack - you never know what kind of prize you'll find inside. The finds are always surprising and sometimes thrilling.

Hope this is helpful. Everyone's experience is different and unique and depends where in the world you live, but this is our own experience as beginning collectors and now avid hobbyists.

I've included images of our first trilobite, an "internal mold" of a spirifer which is quite detailed and full articulated, a crinoid stem which is attached to the shale exactly as shown and wasn't cleaned or separated - my wife found it exactly as shown which is very cool we think - and the last item is the round leaf located at the tip of the neuropteris fern. These are just a few examples of the kinds of things we're finding that got us "hooked' on fossil collecting and keep us exploring.

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Edited by hitekmastr
3 people finds this informative

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This is invaluable advice, laced with the kind of fundamental tips that an "old hand" might take so for granted as to neglect their mention. On behalf of noobs everywhere, I thank you!

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That is a fantastic post, hitekmastr! Seems your attention to the great advice offered to you is paying off. Even as a new collector, your insights are a tutorial for others.

It's also great to see you have a partner that shares the enthusiasm.

I know what you mean about asking permission. Alot of what you can get are sideways looks and suspicion, especially from people who don't understand the interest in the hobby.

I might add, as far as pictures, if you don't already know this, take 'in situ' pictures, too (pictures of the fossils right where you find them). Also, pics of the collecting site (without giving away a 'secret spot' you might discover), can often help with id's.

Great job,

Steve

EDIT: Well, I see Auspex put it in a nutshell! ^_^

Edited by Bullsnake

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Although I taught biology at the college level and taught evolution I am relatively new to fossil hunting. While trying to find ammonites in Lamy, NM, reported on a blog, I came across some interesting casts/shapes in sandstone in an area having a few shells. My guess is they are the burrows of soft bodies organisms perhaps worms.

One picture shows most of the tube and the other is a close up. The material inside the tube was a different color from the rock that contains the tube.

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Edited by BillG

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Again in Lamy, NM, I also found a second type of fossil that was shorter. Perhaps another type of soft bodied organism.

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The first example (and probably the second as well) does appear to be an in-filled burrow. Do you recall its orientation to the bedding plane?

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The rock was laying in an arroyo and I did not think to determine the bedding plane (good suggestion :) ). If I go back I'll surely check for that.

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This forum is a perfect outlet to ask questions. With experience, comes knowledge.

Edited by PFOOLEY

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I have recently found this fossil, can someone please identify the name of it for me please as I cannot find it anywhere,

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I have recently found this fossil, can someone please identify the name of it for me please as I cannot find it anywhere,

You will need to start this topic in the Fossil ID forum, and figure out how to post a picture (hint: odds are that your photo file is too large).

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Although I taught biology at the college level and taught evolution I am relatively new to fossil hunting. While trying to find ammonites in Lamy, NM, reported on a blog, I came across some interesting casts/shapes in sandstone in an area having a few shells. My guess is they are the burrows of soft bodies organisms perhaps worms.

One picture shows most of the tube and the other is a close up. The material inside the tube was a different color from the rock that contains the tube.

Santa Fe - another great area to hunt!

And I like how you turned your photo into a "boot heel."

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new members cannot post their own topic until they've participated in conversations. Is it alright to post photos and get help identifying some fossils here?

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new members cannot post their own topic until they've participated in conversations. Is it alright to post photos and get help identifying some fossils here?

Do it in the Fossil ID section. You'll get more eyes on your ID question. You should be able to start a new topic in ID now. Most common mistake fist timers make is using photo files that are too large, resize and try again.

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new members cannot post their own topic until they've participated in conversations. Is it alright to post photos and get help identifying some fossils here?

New members can indeed start topics; there is delayed permission is only for creating a gallery (a very short qualification period) and for access to the Sales & Trades forum.

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Oh, I tried posting in the new members introductions and it said i could not. Oh well, Thanks! I'll try posting later today in the Fossil ID Section.

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Oh, I tried posting in the new members introductions and it said i could not. Oh well, Thanks! I'll try posting later today in the Fossil ID Section.

Other than being signed in, there is no restriction on posting on the open boards. Try again to introduce yourself.

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Done! haha it finally worked! before it wouldn't let me type in the box, but thats all done now! thanks!

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Done! haha it finally worked! before it wouldn't let me type in the box, but thats all done now! thanks!

It could have been that you weren't logged in at that moment. I've done that.

What you helped me find out is that we may establish a "gallery." I've been using photobucket - which also works well. I'm not exactly a total newbie, but I am an amateur, and still learning how to use this forum.

To the Mods - What are the limits to the size of pictures in the fossil forum galleries?

Edited by Roadrunner

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Basic gallery guidelines are here: LINK, and Forum image size constraints are here: LINK

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I also figured out the gallery... by chance, i'm a chance learner, lol. So can you post pics in the forum which you've uploaded to a gallery? I've seen some posts where they have an index card thing posted next to their pic, awfully professional looking, kind of nice. Is that a feature of the forum?

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Read lots of good advice from previous posts and another good tip comes to mind: when you spot a special fossil, you might not always want to go with your initial impulse to just grab it. Why? If it's in a fragile state, you might lose it before you have it and if it's incomplete, other parts of the puzzle might be laying nearby. If you walk away to show your fossil buddy, you might not be find the location again.

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Neither, did it work for me. HERE is a link to a Wiki page on pseudofossils.

This is very helpful, thanks!

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I am so glad this was pinned! What a great conversation! And hikemaster I cant wait for more of your informative posts! Very good info. Funny, MANY moons ago when I lived in PA and very did amateurish fossil hunting, little did I realize the treasure trove there was where I hunted. I had many Rock Garden pieces! It reminds me of Masonboros post....I collected a bunch of stuff and kept the best. Worst part of it is....I don't have but a couple of remnants from those days. Moving a couple of times and life changes and all sorts of things....priority stuff....BUT! Now I am on the hunt, AND I have all of you guys! I once took my rock hammer and popped apart a piece of shale and found the coolest fossilized plant....I was so excited-until I looked at the other side and realized it was only the stain from plant matter that grew in between the cracks! HA! My very own pseudo fossil! Yep, those pseudos sure get a person excited! Thanks to all of you guys that share your knowledge, and patience!

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On 2/23/2012 at 1:45 PM, dragonsfly said:

Since this is for beginners " I would suggest, If it looks different: in color, texture,composition, pattern...keep it till you find out WHY". This is the best way to learn. I have found nautiloids that looked little more than concretions. Just because you can't identify something YET doesn't mean it won't be the prize of your collection when you finally do. Some of my best fossils were no more than compacted dirt inside a concretion, if I hadn't recognized them as having potential and coated them with glue/water solution, they would be gone. Be cautious, Be curious, don't be in a hurry. It is better to end up with a bucket of Psudofossils than to throw out one important piece you undervalued. John

What kind of glue?  

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