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Welcome back! the new school year has started for most, if not all, people by now. Everyone is busily trying to figure out new schedules, new curricula, new people, sometimes even new schools. Changes are everywhere this time of year. Paleoaerie is no exception. We didn’t get quite as much done over the summer as we would have liked (does anyone?), but it was an interesting summer, filled with good and bad. To start with the bad, the UALR web design course that was initially going to work on revamping the website is no more due to unexpected shakeups at the school. Nevertheless, a different course will take a look at the site and see what they can do, although they sadly won’t have as much time to deal with it.
But there was a lot of good that happened. Big news for Paleoaerie is that we are now partnered with the Arkansas STEM Coalition, a nonprofit advocacy group for STEM education within Arkansas. This is really important for us because this means Paleoaerie now operates as an official nonprofit organization. What does this mean for us and you? It means that any donation to the site is tax-deductible. It also means that many grants that we could not apply for before are now within possible reach. Fundraising should be a bit easier from now on, which means we may be able to do much more in the upcoming future. One of the things we will be doing in the near future is a Kickstarter campaign to buy a 3D laser scanner so that we can start adding 3D images of Arkansas fossils onto the website, which will be available for anyone to use. One might ask why not use some of the cheap or even free photographic methods that are available. In a word: resolution. I’ve tried other methods. When one is attempting to make a 3D image of an intricate object only a few centimeters across, they don’t work well. If you want details to show up, you need a better system. Stay tuned for that.
Paleoaerie is also partnering with the Museum of Discovery and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock for a National Fossil Day event on October 11. Make sure to mark your calendars and come out to the museum to see the spectacle and diversity that can be found in Arkansas. There is much more than you think. We are also working with the museum on a new dinosaur traveling exhibit. It is very cool, so watch for it later this fall.
The last big news that happened recently is today’s Mystery Monday fossil. Someone brought me a fossil to examine a couple of weeks ago. The first amazing part of it is that is was actually a fossil. the vast majority of what people show me are just interestingly shaped rocks. This was a bona fide fossil. Not only was it a fossil, but a really cool one. The image below is a vertebra from a little seen animal in Arkansas and not at all for a very long time. The fossil is roughly 100 million years old, putting it in the Cretaceous Period. At that time, Arkansas was on the shoreline of the late Cretaceous Interior Seaway. Take a look at the image below and see if you can figure out what it came from. I’ll let you know what it is Friday. Thanks to Matt Smith for bringing this wonderful fossil to my attention. Come out to the National Fossil Day event and see it for yourself.