Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Happy Fossil Day

Crinoids at the Indiana State Museum. Photo by Alan Meiss, via flickr.

Today is National Fossil Day in the US, an event organized by the National Park Service "to promote public awareness and stewardship of fossils, as well as to foster a greater appreciation of their scientific and educational values." A just cause, I'm sure we can all agree. National Fossil Day is part of the larger effort of Earth Science Week, the American Geological Institute's public outreach event held during the second week of October each year.

Being that it's held on a Wednesday, and the closest fossil to me is the Anatotitan figurine decorating my cubicle, I'm not out ripping it up in celebration. I hope that our public schools are taking the opportunity to give their students an appreciation of deep time. In Bloomington, which is my particular corner of the Hoosier state, Wonderlab is hosting a National Fossil Day event this Saturday, October 16 called "Exploring Fossils." From the museum's site:
Celebrate National Fossil Day on Saturday October 16 by attending "Exploring Fossils." The science museum will offer Exploring Fossils, a workshop that combines science and art. Visitors may stop by anytime from 11:30 am to 3:00 pm to polish the plain surface of a 350 million year old stone and reveal the beautiful fossilized remains of a colonial coral. Participants may keep the stone and also receive an information sheet with science background on the stone and its origins.
If you're in the area, and you have kids, take them out. When I went to the Fossil Fest at Falls of the Ohio last month, it was heartening to see families with children wandering out on the Devonian limestone, asking volunteer naturalists about the odd organic forms preserved in the rock. There are plenty of holidays dedicated to pleasant fictions. National Fossil Day is all about the awesomeness of natural history and how all of us are part of the continuum that Darwin famously called "endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful." An appreciation of our true place in nature, stepping past pat answers and comforting fantasies, is something we owe ourselves and our children.

UPDATE: Tonight at 7pm, I'm heading to the Monroe County Historical Center, which is hosting a talk about Indiana natural history called "Climate, Crinoids, and Carnivores." I'll be posting about this and the "Trilobites to Terabites" exhibit that opened today at the MCHC. Stay tuned for more!

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