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May 12, 2014 at 9:56 am

What’s That Fossil? Check the Online Guide

The Kallmeyer Collection of the Ohio University Invertebrate Paleontology Collections includes invasive species that dominated the ancient landscape of Cincinnati, Ohio. The invaders include brachiopods, gastropods, bivalves, and corals. (Photo by Ben Siegel.)

The Kallmeyer Collection of the Ohio University Invertebrate Paleontology Collections includes invasive species that dominated the ancient landscape of Cincinnati, Ohio. The invaders include brachiopods, gastropods, bivalves, and corals. (Photo by Ben Siegel.)

In her youth, Dr. Alycia Stigall, Professor of Geological Sciences, made do with A Golden Guide to Fossils, but she hopes that today’s amateur fossil collectors and researchers will have at their disposal a more comprehensive guide.

That’s why she and her colleagues are creating an online database—the Digital Atlas of Ordovician Life at www.ordovicianatlas.org—that will include identification keys, images, and distribution maps for some 850 ancient animal species, including brachiopods, trilobites, and other invertebrates. The project is funded by the National Science Foundation.

The online fossil guide is part of the Digital Atlas of Ancient Life Project.

So far, the researchers are including in their database Cincinnatian fossils from the Cincinnati Museum Center, the Karl E. Limper Geology Museum at Miami University of Ohio, and the Department of Geological Sciences at Ohio University. They also are including fossils from the Pennsylvania period (323 to 299 million years old) from the University of Kansas and fossils from the Neogene period (23 to 2.6 million years old) from the University of Florida.

“The atlas is a wonderful tool for both amateurs and professionals,” says Jennifer Bauer, a master’s student who is working on the project. “Once the atlas is complete anyone can go fossil collecting in the regions we are focusing on and identify their specimens, down to the species level.”

The online atlas also features Resources for Teachers, including lesson plans and downloadable cards.

Article by Sara LaJeunesse, from Perspectives magazine.

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