We can dig it: Celebrate National Fossil Day and learn what to do with what you find

There’s a day for just about everything these days, but National Fossil Day is one we can really dig.

Organized by the National Park Service, National Fossil Day isn’t just about appreciating past millennia frozen in time by the likes of these little guys:

A teensy TrilobiteA stunning pair of Trilobites, currently residing in the Morian Hall of Paleontology.

It’s also about public awareness and promoting stewardship of fossils. Says the National Park Service:

Fossils discovered on the nation’s public lands preserve ancient life from all major eras of Earth’s history, and from every major group of animal or plant. In the national parks, for example, fossils range from primitive algae found high in the mountains of Glacier National Park, Montana, to the remains of ice-age animals found in caves at Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona. Public lands provide visitors with opportunities to interpret a fossil’s ecological context by observing fossils in the same place those animals and plants lived millions of years ago.

Do you know the rules when it comes to fossils found on public lands? If not, educate yoself! Happy finding!

Wash, rinse and repeat: See pics from Paleo Wash Day at HMNS Sugar Land

I would like to thank the approximately 175 citizen scientists that came out Saturday at HMNS Sugar Land. They helped us process approximately 1,000 pounds of soil and rock from the specimens we’ve collected from our Permian-aged (182-187 million years ago) site near Seymour,Texas.

washday 010I was impressed with your cooperativeness, curiosity, and, most importantly, the care you all exhibited in processing these samples. Also, this experience absolutely would not have been possible without the facilitation of our experienced museum and field crew volunteers.

washday 011The Process:

In excavating fossils, many times we will work to retain the matrix that is removed from around the specimen. This matrix is soaked in water and allowed to disaggregate. Then the mud is placed and screens and gently rinsed, leaving behind hard pieces — including fossils.

UntitledAfter rinsing, the specimens are dried and then searched. This process will typically reduce the bulk sample size by 80 percent.  People processing the sample typically are left very wet and muddy, as you can see here:

washday 048From all of us here at HMNS, thank you!

Paleontological Pandemonium! It’s happening: Read on

Listen, we need to talk. We have something to tell you, and it’s going to change things. Are you sitting down? Okay.

OUR BRAND SPANKING NEW, HUGEMONGOUS, YEARS-IN-THE-MAKING NEW HALL OF PALEONTOLOGY OPENS JUNE 2.

Hayyy! Ohhhh! Hayyy! Paleooo!

Phew, we feel better getting that off our chests! With all of our prep work, all of our research and all of our behind-the-scenes sneaking, we’re relieved to finally get to share with you all that we’ve been working on.

Here’s a couple figures to get you started:

30,000 square feet
60 brand new mounts
30 prehistoric creatures
12 feet of Megalodon teeth
$85 million buckaroonees

But there’s more: Where other exhibitions feature stagnant skeletons mounted in formal poses, all the mounts in our new paleo hall have been designed in action poses for the ultimate interactive experience. Ever seen a Megalodon eat a prehistoric elephant? Just. You. Wait.

Make sure to follow all the action on Twitter at @hmns and Facebook at facebook.com/natural.science and join the Twitter conversation yourself at #hmnspaleo!

For a full array of great paleo hall photos, check out our Flickr feed here!

Members…And Monsters! [The Prehistoric Kind]

This summer is still swinging (17 straight days of 100+ temps make that fact hard to forget) – but we’re already looking forward to summer 2012!

Why? Because that’s when our new paleontology hall opens!

To get ready, we previewed the new hall this summer with a series of member events – each one featured a different dinosaur that will take up residence in the new wing next year.

Shark Week at HMNS: Megalodon!
Associate Curator of Paleontology David Temple shows an HMNS volunteer
around our 10-foot Megalodon jaw on display to celebrate Shark Week!
The jaw will be part of the new Paleontology Hall, opening Summer 2012!
Prehistoric Monsters: Mosasaur! [July 16, 2011]
Members who attended our Prehistoric Monsters series of events
this summer had the opportunity to talk dinosaurs with our curator of Paleontology, Dr. Bob Bakker!
Prehistoric Monsters: Mosasaur! [July 16, 2011]
Meet the Mosasaur! This prehistoric sea monster will be on display in the new paleontology hall!
Prehistoric Monsters: Quetzalcoatlus [6.11]
Kids dig for – and identify! – fossils!

We want to say a huge THANK YOU to all our new and existing members who joined or renewed this summer – your support is vital to our expansion project, and will enrich science education in the Houston community for decades to come.

If you visited our photo booth during one of our Prehistoric Monster events, find your photos here!

If you’re not yet a member – what are you waiting for?

Members will be the very first to experience the new paleontology hall when it opens next year – and if you join or renew now, you’ll get 3 additional months of membership free! Plus, there are still several great summer member events coming up!