I am eager to share my interest in paleontology with as many different audiences as possible. Several examples of my outreach activities are detailed below.
Paleontological Society Distinguished Lecturer
In spring 2015 I was honored to be nominated as Distinguished Lecturer for the Paleontological Society. I am excited to begin my two year term in January 2016. For additional details, please see the Paleontological Society webpage.
Digitization of Fossil Collections
Digitization of fossil collections has tremendous potential for making old data useful for answering new questions in paleobiology, as well as for the generation of new educational resources.
I am currently a Principal Investigator on a grant called “Digitizing fossils to enable new syntheses in biogeography – creating a PALEONICHES-TCN”, which is the first paleontological Thematic Collection Network (TCN) to be funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The goal of this project is to digitize occurrence data associated with fossil specimens from three spatio-temporal regions—the Neogene of the southeastern United States, the Pennsylvanian of the Midcontinent United States, and the Ordovician of the Cincinnati Region—in order to facilitate study of the biogeographical responses of species to ancient environmental changes. One important component of this project is the creation of “Digital Atlases”—akin to field guides to fossils—for each of these three systems that will be useful to both professional and avocational paleontologists for: 1) identifying fossils, and 2) studying how the geographical distributions of species change over time.
With assistance from undergraduate and graduate students at SJSU, as well as museum staff at the Florida Museum of Natural History and the University of Kansas Biodiversity Institute & Natural History Museum, I have designed and coordinated the development of the Neogene (www.neogeneatlas.org) and Pennsylvanian (www.pennsylvanianatlas.org) Digital Atlases of Ancient Life, as well as the portal page for the Digital Atlas project (www.digitalatlasofancientlife.org). An overview of this project was recently published in Palaeontologia Electronica.
In late July 2015, I traveled to Panama as a researcher participant in the NSF-supported Great American Biotic Interchange-Research Experience for Teachers (GABI-RET) project (the project’s Principal Investigator is Bruce MacFadden, Florida Museum of Natural History). Ten teachers and several scientists participated in research-oriented paleontological fieldwork around the area of the Panama Canal. It was a fantastic experience. More details about our trip and the project itself are provided on the GABI-RET webpage.
Participation in the Bay Area Earth Science Institute
The Bay Area Earth Science Institute (BAESI) is an organization operated out of San José State University that trains grades 4-12 teachers in principles of earth science, climate science, and sustainability. I have participated in a number of BAESI workshops on topics including paleontology, evolution, geological time, coral reefs, and extinctions.
Video Conferences with School Groups
One of my favorite outreach activities is video conferencing with school groups over Skype. In particular, I enjoy answering student questions about paleontology and fossils. I have conducted video conferences with elementary school children in Wisconsin and middle school students in California.