Killing the Cockroach

Cockroaches are feared, hated, sprayed, and stomped. But, we can’t seem to get rid of them. They have survived multiple global disasters and even outlasted the dinosaurs, but can all of their fancy adaptations save them from the current extinction crisis? In his 2019 TEDxBuffalo talk, Penn Dixie Executive Director Dr. Phil Stokes explores why some species are more prone to extinction than others.

Remembering Eileen Eich

By Dr. Phil Stokes, Executive Director

With deepest condolences to her family and friends, I share the passing of Eileen E. Eich, cherished co-founder of our organization. Eileen departed us on January 25 following a long illness.

It stands that Penn Dixie would not be here without Eileen’s efforts. Affectionately known as ‘Mrs. Eich’ by our volunteers and staff, Eileen was simultaneously modest and proud of her decades of service to save Penn Dixie from development.

I first met Eileen by accident. One evening during my first year on the job, I was canvassing the neighborhood around Penn Dixie — also known as Steelton in Hamburg/Blasdell — to introduce myself to the community. I happened across a house with “Eich” on the mailbox.

As a new executive director in 2016, I had spent my first months poring over historical documents and business papers. Eileen’s roles as co-founder, early board member, and longtime volunteer were well-documented. Her name was everywhere. It was clear that she had been a dedicated and integral part of our history. However, since Eileen had retired some years ago, most of us newer folks had not made her acquaintance.

Was this really her home? I boldly rang the bell.

Presently, the door opened. I was greeted by a warm and friendly “Hello!” I introduced myself to the woman behind the screen door and asked if she was Eileen Eich of Penn Dixie fame. She said “Why, yes I am!” and invited me inside.

Penn Dixie Co-Founder Eileen Eich, Daughter Judy, Education Director Dr. Holly Schreiber, and Director Dr. Phil Stokes
HNHS/Penn Dixie Founder Eileen Eich, Dr. Phil Stokes, Eileen’s Daughter Judy, and Dr. Holly Schreiber.

Eileen’s home reminded me of long ago visits to my grandparents’ house. Pictures on the wall, knick knacks on shelves and furniture, memories everywhere. Eileen happily shared the story of Penn Dixie’s origins while filling it in with bits and pieces of her family and personal life. She said she missed her deceased husband, Ron, who had served in the Korean War and had died in the early 2000s at a relatively young age.

Eileen kept herself busy with community work and spending time with her family. She was especially proud of her four children and many grandchildren. I have to admit that, after an extended lesson in the family tree, I was thoroughly confused by all of the the names and stories that she shared. Help arrived, however, when we were joined by her daughter Judy who had just arrived home.

Judy, like her mother, had a strong connection to our past. Roped into volunteering, Judy relayed tales of her and her mom working to get a foothold for our organization in the community. They attended meetings together, tabled at events, and created a traveling fossil display for local libraries. This was the birth of Penn Dixie.

Penn Dixie 1990s display
Penn Dixie library display from the 1990s. Picture provided by Liz Gonsiorek.

Eileen and Judy were proud, but also nonchalant, about their efforts. “Oh yeah, we did all that” Judy summarized about the work to convince the Town of Hamburg that Penn Dixie was a place worth preserving. They kept a scrapbook, which they showed me, to commemorate the experience. ‘All that’ included countless meetings, trips to libraries and town halls, community events, and political arm twisting. It was truly an impressive grassroots effort by Eileen and her neighborhood friends Liz Gonsiorek and Sheila Kelly.

Little did they know that their work in the late 1980s and early 1990s would become what it did. But, Eileen was proud. “People come from all over the world,” she beamed. “Thousands of them come here to dig for fossils. Who would have known?”

After that evening, I met Eileen a few more times. I ran into her and her aide once or twice at local restaurants. Eileen also graced us at Penn Dixie during some of our larger fossil digs. Her family said that it always pleased Eileen to visit and see how things were coming with the organization. We also had the opportunity to interview Eileen along with co-founders Liz Gonsiorek and Sheila Kelly. You can read that story here.

Eileen Eich leaves behind an incredible legacy of leadership and community service. Our organization is grateful to her and her family for their outstanding efforts to preserve our geological treasure. We will miss you, Eileen.


More reading:

Eileen Eich Obituary – Kaczor Funeral Homes

Buffalo News Obituary

1990 Buffalo News Article on Eileen’s Work

Celebrating Penn Dixie’s Heroes

Dig With The Experts

Join us for our signature fossil dig — Dig with the Experts! This is our very popular, once yearly opportunity to unearth the best, most complete, and most unexpected fossils at Penn Dixie. We’ll have equipment do the heavy lifting and scientific experts on site to help with locating and identifying the best fossils. You’ll have to do your share of splitting and digging, of course, but you’re guaranteed to find something cool and interesting.

Tickets – Select date to purchase
Saturday August 29: Members $35, non-members $40
Sunday August 30: Members $20, non-members $25, under 18 $15
Weekend Pass: Members $45, non-members $55 – SAVE $10

Expert volunteers — including scientists, leading fossil collectors, and experts on local geology — will lead the dig in a freshly excavated section of the Lower Windom Shale and will demonstrate how to find Devonian Period trilobites, cephalopods, fish remains, brachiopods, corals, wood, and a range of other marine invertebrates. Thanks to our experts — all volunteer collectors and paleontologists who travel to Penn Dixie to share their time and knowledge — we are celebrating our 16th dig in 2020! Saturday participants will receive a special commemorative gift.

Dig Times
Saturday August 29 – 8:00 am to 3:00 pm
Sunday August 30 – 8:00 am to 3:00 pm

Want to stick around a few more days? Dig With The Experts guests are welcome to continue collecting fossils at Penn Dixie for no additional charge during the week of August 31 to September 4. Just show your wrist band at the entrance and you’ll be all set.

But, wait — there’s more! Superstar paleontologist ‘Paleo’ Joe Kchodl and Executive Director Dr. Phil Stokes will join us for special science talks the evening before the dig in the Gateway Building Auditorium, 3556 Lakeshore Road in Blasdell, NY.

On Friday August 28, Dr. Stokes will present his overview of Penn Dixie’s rocks and fossils, titled Britain to Buffalo: The Fossil Connection, at 6:30 pm. Keynote speaker PaleoJoe will present Devonian: The Age of Fish at 7:00 pm. PaleoJoe will also display some of his fossils and will host a book signing following his talk.

These family-friendly presentations are FREE for Penn Dixie members AND registered dig guests, or $4 for the public. Refreshments included. No reservations needed. Talks begin at 6:30 pm.

Director’s Notes: This program will sell out — please reserve in advance to guarantee a spot. By popular demand, we offer Child (under age 18) tickets for Sunday’s dig at $15 each. Children must be accompanied at all times. We do not recommend that children under age 7 attend this program due to the technical and safety requirements of splitting rocks. Children are welcome to attend on Saturday at the regular rate. During Dig With The Experts, other areas of Penn Dixie will be open to fossil collectors of all ages and regular tours will be available. Tickets are electronic and will not be mailed.

International Guests: If the Square Store cannot process your transaction, please email Dr. Phil Stokes at phil@penndixie.org with your name, order info (i.e., dates, numbers and types of tickets), and membership status. We’ll send you a PayPal invoice directly. When you arrive, please request special documentation to help at customs.


Dig with the Experts draws collectors from around the globe for this unique opportunity, which was developed and is currently co-led by our friends from the Cincinnati Dry Dredgers. Bring a hammer, chisel, safety glasses, newspaper, and paper towels to wrap your fossils. Extra water is recommended, plus bring rain gear just in case the weather doesn’t cooperate.

Food trucks will be on site Saturday and Sunday to serve lunch. Guests are welcome to bring their own food and beverages, as well as a small cart to transport personal items and specimens. Chairs and umbrellas are okay, too. We thank Zoladz Construction Co., Inc. for their help to get Penn Dixie ready for this big event.

Additional information:

Penn Dixie Frequently asked questions

Buffalo ranked America’s favorite city to visit, upstaging all competitors

2020 Membership Gift Pack

Give the gift of science!explore-and-more-logo-20190426001

Your lucky recipients will enjoy one year of Penn Dixie membership, two (2) admissions to the new Explore & More: The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Children’s Museum in downtown Buffalo, and all sorts of goodies for new and returning fossil hunters.

Our 2020 Edition Membership Gift Pack is available with either Family ($74.99) or Individual ($54.99) membership certificates. Certificates are redeemable upon first visit or via mail. Shipping is free.

Family Pack $74.99Individual Pack $54.99

Pack includes:Penn Dixie membership gift pack

  1. One year Family Membership – $60 value — with unlimited free admission for two adults and up to four children/grandchildren under age 18 -OR- Individual Membership – $40 value — with member benefits for one adult;
  2. Two admissions to Explore & More (some restrictions apply) — $22 value;
  3. Two Trilobite guest passes — up to $20 value;
  4. Trilobite pin (assorted styles) — $6 value;
  5. Amazing Arthropods gift box — $5 value;
  6. Tool rental coupon — $5 value;
  7. Two reusable collecting bags (colors vary) — $5 value;
  8. Two grab bags containing Penn Dixie fossils — $4 value;
  9. Two Fossil Hunters Club cards to keep track of what you find;
  10. Penn Dixie eNews updates & digital newsletter subscription; and
  11. Savings on special events and in our gift shop.

You’ll receive all of these items — over $100 value — inside a custom-designed, locally screened artisan box that features paleoart by Ernst Haeckel and is perfect for storing your fossil collection. Surprise a friend or treat yourself!

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Hops ‘N Rocks

smiling headshotOur Board of Directors is proud to host Hops ‘N Rocks at 6 pm on Thursday November 7 at Pearl Street Grill & Brewery at 76 Pearl Street in Buffalo. The event features dinner, auctions, prizes, a cash bar, and more to advance our nonprofit mission of science and outdoor education.

Spectrum News Meteorologist Kaylee Wendt will serve as the Master of Ceremonies at Hops ‘N Rocks, a benefit for hands on science and outdoor education at Penn Dixie Fossil Park and Nature Reserve. Kaylee, a highly visible scientist and Western New York native, is excited to support local STEM education.

All are welcome to attend. Tickets are $50 at the door.

Auction prizes include sports tickets and memorabilia, prizes from community and cultural groups, and gift baskets with food and drink. Join us for exciting Penn Dixie and informal education news. Hops ‘N Rocks is made possible by our great sponsors: Blasdell Rod & Gun Club, Evans Bank, RP Oak Hill Building Company, West Herr, and Phillips Lytle.

Want to pay by check? Contact Dr. Phil Stokes at phil@penndixie.org or call 716-627-4560.

2019 Fall Hours

Penn Dixie is open to the public on weekends from September 7 through October 20, our final day of the season. During this time we are open 9 am to 5 pm on Saturday and 10 am to 5 pm on Sunday. We welcome schools and private tours on weekdays.

We are open daily to the public from Monday June 17 to Friday September 6. During this time we are open 9 am to 5 pm Monday to Saturday and 10 am to 5 pm on Sunday.

Holidays: Penn Dixie is open to the public from 9 am to 3 pm on Labor Day (Monday September 2).

Adults Seniors 62+ Military Students Children 3-17 Members
$10 $9 $9 $9 $7 FREE

Purchase Tickets

Admission tickets are available online or at our check-in station. We do not charge for children under age 3. Senior, military, and student discounts offered with valid ID. Veterans may visit for free if they present a valid Erie County ‘Thank A Vet’ Discount Program card. Please see our cancellation and refund policy. On site, we accept cash or credit cards.

Groups can contact us directly for rates and are welcome year round — even when we are closed to the public! Penn Dixie is accessible and has over 4,100 feet of paved trails for wheel chairs, walkers, strollers and wagons. We also offer Private Expeditions and a premium fossil collecting experience through IfOnly. New to Penn Dixie? Please see our Frequent questions.

Members may collect fossils at any time. If members wish to visit outside of normal hours, please sign-in using the on-site form located inside the green box on the Penn Dixie gate. Be sure to park outside the gate on the lawn or gravel area so that your vehicle does not impede driveway traffic. As always, please carry your membership card with you at all times. And, be sure to observe our rules and procedures found at the bottom of our FAQ.

Fall Homeschool Day

Tuesday September 24, 10 am to 1 pm

Rain date: Thursday September 26, 10 am to 1 pm

Update: We have reached capacity for this program and will no longer accept registrations. We will offer another homeschool program in spring 2020. Thank you for your interest.

Learn about the geological history of Western New York with a hands-on science program at Penn Dixie! This special program for homeschoolers includes a complete educational tour of Penn Dixie led by our trained educators. All participants are welcome to take home all the fossils they find.

Registration is $6 per student. There is no charge for children aged two and under. Program is for grades 1-12; please specify your child’s grade when registering.

Check-in begins at 9:30 am. The program begins promptly at 10 am. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Younger siblings of students are welcome. One free adult/chaperone is included with every registered student. Siblings and additional adults are welcome at $6 per person.

Guests are encouraged to bring their own bucket or durable bag to store fossils.

If you are unable to register online, please contact Dr. Holly Schreiber at holly@penndixie.org or 716-627-4560 to reserve a space. For these guests we will accept cash and credit card payments at the start of the program. Unfortunately we are not able to accommodate late registrations.

Refund policy: In the event of light rain, the program will take place as scheduled. Guests are advised to wear boots and rain gear. If there is heavy rain or lightning, Fall Homeschool Day will take place on Thursday September 26. We will make this announcement via email and over our social media. If both programs are canceled by Penn Dixie due to weather, all guests will receive a refund. Otherwise, our usual cancellation policy applies.