Upcoming Events

October 18, 2016
Fossil Field Workshop

Geological Hangman


Alabama State Fossil


Basilosaurus cetoides


Fossils of the Black Belt - A Hands-On Field Workshop for Science Teachers

University of West Alabama in Livingston and vicinity

October 18, 2016

8:00am to 4:30pm

Cost: $15.00

preregistration required

Earth Science Week!

Contact Information

David Kopaska-Merkel



Legacy Workshop

In the summer of 2006, the Geological Survey of Alabama co-led a workshop with Legacy (Alabama's environmental education organization; http://www.legacyenved.org/) on fossil trackways. This workshop was part of Legacy's summer teacher institute. In the morning, participants visited the Stephen C. Minkin Paleozoic Footprint Site, which is one of Alabama's most important fossil localities. This site is owned by the State Lands Division of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. The site was purchased by the state so that it could be preserved for future study and education. The Minkin Site is the most important fossil trackway site of its age in the world, and it has been described in a book published by the Alabama Paleontological Society. Workshop participants collected trace fossils (footprints and other marks made by ancient creatures), plant fossils, and fossil brachiopod shells. Several Alabama museums already hold significant collections of fossils from this site; any specimens of scientific importance that are discovered there must be donated to one of these museums (Alabama Museum of Natural History, McWane Science Center, Anniston Museum of Natural History). Most workshop participants were able to take home all the fossils they collected for use in the classroom.

Everyone found trace fossils!

Photograph by Toni Bruner, Legacy.

In the afternoon, workshop participants used long strips of paper and paint to make their own footprint trackways. They then learned how to calculate the length of the legs of a trackway maker and the speed at which it was moving.

Survey staff member David Kopaska-Merkel tells teachers how to use tracks to learn about their makers.

Photograph by Toni Bruner, Legacy.


Measuring stride length.

Photograph by Toni Bruner, Legacy.

Teachers came away from the workshop prepared to share with their students not only the knowledge of what kinds of creatures left behind the fossils they found, but how those fossils can teach us even more about the life they represent.