Research News

This Easter weekend, hunt for fossils, not colored eggs

This Easter weekend, consider something different: Instead of hunting for colored eggs, hunt for fossils.

This unique opportunity is provided by a celebration of Tennessee’s ancient past called “Fossils@The Fort,” scheduled for Saturday, April 4, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Fort Negley. The event, now in its third year, is the outgrowth of an outreach project of Vanderbilt University students in Professor Molly Miller‘s Earth and Environmental Sciences class “Life Through Time.”

The event includes:

  • An opportunity to hunt for and take home 400 million-year-old fossils in a fossil-rich pile of rocks taken from the Vulcan Materials Company quarry in Parsons, Tennessee, and donated by the company.
  • A fossil “road show,” where experts identify fossils that people bring from home and also provide microscopes that allow people to see their fossils in great detail.
  • Presentations and tours that reconstruct Tennessee’s ancient past and highlight some of the most extraordinary fossils found around the world.

The Vanderbilt students spend all semester preparing for the event. This year, they will give presentations on a number of topics, including how 600 million-year-old fossil embryos are preserved; how saber-toothed cats got trapped in gooey asphalt and preserved 100,000 years ago in California’s famous La Brea Tar Pits; how people’s skin, hair and other tissues have been preserved for as long as 6,000 years in peat bogs; and how humans and other animals have been preserved in glaciers for thousands of years.

Students also will lead guided walks to view the 450 million-year-old corals in the rocks at Fort Negley that are preserved in the positions in which they grew on the sea floor at a time when the entire area was covered by a giant inland sea.

Vanderbilt, Friends of Fort Negley, Metro Parks and Vulcan Materials Company are sponsoring the event.

For more information, please contact the Fort Negley Visitors Center and Park at (615) 862-8470.