Fossil Park activities continue this fall!

Fossil Park activities continue this fall!

Community Dig Day '17 at the Jean & Ric Edelman Fossil Park
Craig Terry

Fall activities continue at the Jean & Ric Edelman Fossil Park at Rowan University, including a dig program for Gloucester County teachers this Saturday morning, a session for Rowan staff and family Saturday afternoon, three public school programs in October and a special Homecoming Dig Oct. 13.

On Sept. 23, the sun was barely up as hundreds of fossil hunters descended into “the pit,” plastic shovels, rakes and other small implements in hand, working the fine, dark soil for prehistoric treasures during the annual Community Dig Day, the park’s biggest program of the year.

Pausing first for a quick lesson in paleontology from Fossil Park Director Dr. Kenneth Lacovara, dean of the School of Earth & Environment, the fossil hunters learned about the Cretaceous period, the heyday of the dinosaurs, and the rich trove of marine life from that era that suddenly expired on the site some 65 million years ago.

Split among four groups throughout the day, roughly 2,000 visitors worked the earth in the former marl quarry for fossils – shark teeth, clam shells, or possibly the remains of something much, much bigger.

On hand to help identify finds were Dr. Lacovara and a team of researchers and volunteers, all of whom were busy as amateur paleontologists of all ages worked through dirt in buckets or pushed it through mesh screens to unearth fossils.

Attending the program were Beth Ritter ’03 of Tabernacle, her husband Joe, and three of their children, Jessica, Rob and Kate.

“Our six-year-old, Rob, told me last night he was going to find a whole dinosaur and put it back together,” Joe Ritter said.

As it turned out, Rob Ritter did not complete that mission but he did unearth a cache of treasures, half a dozen items including a piece of vivianite, a mineral that often forms in the presence of shells and fossils.

“I have a little plastic jar to put all this cool stuff in,” he said.

While hunting for fossils and taking them home was clearly the big draw, the day also featured a dinosaur-themed selfie station, signings by Dr. Lacovara of his new book, Why Dinosaurs Matter, a fossil park store with t-shirts, mugs and other collectibles to support research at the site, a food truck, and an information tent with staffers describing Rowan STEM programs.

The park hosts numerous public dig events throughout the year and will have a new museum, welcome center, dinosaur-themed playground and other features starting in 2020 thanks to the generosity of Jean and Ric Edelman, Rowan alumni who in 2016 endowed the park with a $25 million gift