GEOLiteracy & Beyond…
Article by Robbie Cooke, Royal Holloway, University of London
As an undergraduate you expect to be flooded with email invitations from the SU, lecturers and outside bodies to various lectures and events. Let’s be honest, most of them you just delete. Don’t do this though, because sometimes you stumble across a gem. One such gem was the 2017 PESGB GEOLiteracy tour, which took me to legendary paleontological locations across the UK including Kimmeridge Bay, the Etches Collection above the Bay, and the NHM in London. In common with previous GEOLiteracy tours, the theme of the tour was to be one outside petroleum geology, and there was a visiting guest of honour. This year the theme was dinosaurs and palaeontology and the special guest was Professor Ken Lacovara from Rowan University, New Jersey, USA, a renowned palaeontologist and discoverer of Dreadnoughtus, one of the largest sauropod dinosaurs ever discovered – and still growing at the time of its death.
The PESGB events were incredible. I particularly enjoyed seeing Steve Etches’ personal collection of fossils and I enjoyed listening to Ken’s informative, engaging and entertaining lectures demonstrating to everyone the success and importance of dinosaurs in Earth’s history! I was amazed to learn about Ken’s current project studying strata dated directly at the K-Pg mass extinction with the fossils found at Edelman Fossil Park directly representing the death assemblage caused by the mass extinction. I met Ken again at his lecture “New Tricks for Old Bones” at the Natural History Museum, and I had lots of questions for him. He said then he was impressed by my knowledge and enthusiasm he suggested a volunteering internship at Rowan and in the Fossil Park. I was so amazed that I thought he was joking! I took him up on this offer.
On arrival in the USA I began to familiarise myself with the Fossil Park, learning how it had transitioned from a greensand quarry to a major field location for palaeontology. I spent my time in the Park learning how to use field tools and carefully uncover and extract fossil finds, and how to document them scientifically. My exciting specimen finds included a spiral trace fossil, a ratfish jaw and shark vertebrae. I also worked with elementary and high school students in the Park educating them about fossils and supervising them on digs. With my glasses and British accent they thought I was Harry Potter, so they listened very carefully! I also gained a variety of valuable lab skills, ranging from 3D scanning of fossils to sifting through greensand for echinoid faeces.
I still cannot believe that I went on such an amazing adventure and I am forever grateful to the PESGB for setting me on its path. And as for the other geologists I say get out there, share your passion, excitement and enthusiasm with anyone who will listen; at best you get an amazing opportunity, at worst you get a LinkedIn invite!