Friday, May 05, 2006

Back To The Devonian Seas

The boys and I had a chance to hunt for fossils in what 400 million years ago were mud flats beneath a shallow Devonian sea that have since become known as the Catskill Delta, courtesy of Fairfield Woods School teacher Vinny Carbone and University of Bridgeport geologist Dr. John Nicholas.

Vinny is well known to Fairfield students and parents for his love of the natural world, from the stars in the night sky, to local minerals, to the marine fossils of New York State. His passion translates into a magical ability to engage his students and to fill school buses with kids and parents for one of his now legendary field trips. Vinny and Dr. Nicholas, better known as Doc Rock, have been leading trips to this site in the Catskills area for years now, carrying on a tradition Doc Rock says began in the 1950s, when he was a student at NYU, and before modern geological concepts about continental drift, seafloor spreading and plate tectonics were fully accepted.

Doc Rock (above) pointed out a relatively narrow band of shale in a hillside with many different stripes of sedimentary layers and we quickly went to it. Clad in work gloves and safety goggles, the group of roughly 50 kids and parents were rewarded with many fine fossils of marine animals that existed not long after life began its great expansion in the oceans of the deep past. (Photo by Vinny Carbone.)

There were all sorts of clam-like shelled brachiopods (below), horned corals, and crinoids. Once we found a good spot the boys and I pulled out fossil after fossil in a sort of gold rush frenzy. (Photo by Vinny Carbone.)

A separate horn coral fossil shown to the right of one of the blocks of fossils we found (below). The boys decided to donate another particularly fine specimen of horn coral to a seventh grader named Aaron who had yet to find one, and had earlier contributed several of his best brachipods to our buckets.

A great day, made memorable by the experience of unearthing the remains of animals from a sea that disappeared hundreds of millions of years ago, yet still appear to be fresh from the mud.

Thanks Vinny and Doc Rock!


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