Authors: Samantha B. Ocon, Sadie M. Mills, Jennifer E. Bauer, Dr. Bruce MacFadden
Faculty Mentor: Sadie M. Mills
College: Florida Museum of Natural History
Fossils are relics of natural history that attract people across a wide variety of paleontological backgrounds, from professional to amateur. Despite this common interest, however, there is often an insurmountable boundary between these two groups. Amateur paleontologists are often avid fossil collectors that can offer unique insight into their favorite collecting sites and taxonomic specialties. These amateur fossil collections, however, are not always accessible to professionals, who may gain scientific insight from these private collections.
myFOSSIL, an NSF-funded initiative (NSF-DRL 1322725) based out of the Florida Museum of Natural History, sought to lessen the boundary between paleontologists of all backgrounds by creating an online community. Through a mobile app and a website (myfossil.org), users interact in forums, post photos of paleontological activities, and upload specimen images to the myFOSSIL eMuseum. This eMuseum is a digital fossil collection that allows users to photograph their personal specimens and virtually contribute them to a publicly accessible collection. Other myFOSSIL users are then able to comment on uploaded specimens, fostering collaboration between paleontologists of all backgrounds. This is beneficial because it unobtrusively opens personal collections to professional paleontological researchers, while teaching amateur users the process of curating and identifying fossils in their collection.