Recent Discoveries in the Science of Paleontology

Wednesday June 3, 7 pm – Virtual Presentation

By Dan Krisher, Retired Fossil Hunter

The advancement of knowledge in many fields of study typically proceeds at a relatively slow and incremental pace. If you were to look back over the years in fields such as economics, engineering, the social sciences, and mathematics you would see a slow progression where one advancement builds upon another. The “hard” sciences such as physics, astronomy, biology, and geology tend to display a somewhat different pattern.

The slow accumulation of knowledge certainly takes place, but these sciences also have an inherent tendency toward rapid and dramatic discoveries and reinterpretations which can dramatically change a given field of study. This talk will touch on some of the recent discoveries and concept changes which have occurred in the field of paleontology over the past year.

Dan is a paleontologist who retired from Ward’s Natural Science a few years ago where he was the head of Geology and Paleontology. Since his retirement, he has had more time to pursue research which is focused primarily on the Silurian and Devonian coral faunas of NYS. He has also been very involved in public outreach in a wide variety of venues and settings including being a volunteer at Penn Dixie for 6 years (as of the 2020 season).

To participate you’ll need to Register Here and download Zoom. We’ll email a link to the talk shortly before 7 pm.


Teachers: Want to add something new to your virtual classroom?

Expert Dr. Holly Schreiber
Dr. Holly Schreiber is a paleontologist and one of our local science experts.

This spring Penn Dixie is pleased to offer your students a virtual lesson from a local science expert. Our #AskAScientist program is informative, interactive, and meets Next Generation Science Standards. And, thanks to the generous support of Erie County and the Town of Hamburg, there is no charge for this program.

Here’s the details:

  • #AskAScientist is 30-45 mins in length
  • Program features presentation using digital slides and fossils/rocks
  • Includes question and answer session
  • Must be scheduled at least a week in advance
  • Perfect for middle and high schoolers
  • Teacher must help to facilitate virtual class (use your program or send students a link to our Zoom platform)

Available programs:

  • WNY Fossils – Our most popular program! In this interactive lesson, students will learn the basics of fossils and fossilization. Students will become paleontologists and view fossils commonly found around WNY. Students will use deductive reasoning to understand extinct animals and infer prehistoric environments from the fossils.
  • Geology Rocks! – Rocks and the rock cycle are explored. Students will view rock samples to explore the rock cycle and three primary types of rocks, with a focus on sedimentary rocks. Educators will discuss local rock formations present in WNY and the importance of sedimentary rocks for paleontologists.
  • Geologic Time – Learn about the long history of geologic time. Find out where the rocks of WNY fit into our Earth’s history in relation to major events like the extinction of the dinosaurs.

We can work with you if you have a specific earth science topic they want us to discuss. We use Next Generation Science Standards while integrating in the Common Core Curriculum. Programs address: Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity; The History of Planet Earth; Plate Tectonics and Large-Scale System Interactions; and Earth Systems: Earth Materials and Systems. Penn Dixie is also willing to accommodate any program idea or topic that you are currently covering with your students which would allow us to further meet the specific needs of your classroom.

For more information, please email Dr. Holly Schreiber at

Support for this program is provided by Erie County and the Town of Hamburg.

Erie-County-Seal     Hamburg seal

Virtual Fossil ID

Dig up your unidentified fossil specimens and join us at 4 pm on Friday May 1 for Virtual Fossil ID. Through the magic of Zoom, Penn Dixie experts will identify your fossils and provide some background information about your geological treasures. There is no charge for this program and all ages are welcome to participate. Register below before May 1 to be included in the virtual program.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Computer with webcam, speakers, & microphone/headset; tablet; or smartphone
  • Fossils to identify
  • Any information you can provide about where the fossils were found
  • A ruler or tape measure to show scale
  • Notepad or paper to label specimens

Be sure that your equipment is up and running and that your space is well lit so we can see the specimens. Capacity is limited. We will do our best to make sure that everyone gets a chance to participate but cannot guarantee that we can look at your entire collection. Please note that we cannot appraise fossils — this program is for educational purposes only.

Support for this program is provided by Erie County and the Town of Hamburg.

Erie-County-Seal     Hamburg seal

She Sells Sea Shells

Science in the Virtual Pub – April 23, 7:30 pm

Mary Anning spent her youth searching for fossils along the Lyme Regis coast in southern England. At the age of 12, Mary uncovered the world’s first ichthyosaur, which was a previously unknown animal whose discovery paved the way for our understanding of evolution and extinction. During his talk, Dr. Phil Stokes, the Executive Director of Penn Dixie Fossil Park will delve into Mary’s discoveries and illustrate the surprising connections between the ancient histories of southern England and Buffalo, NY.

5cf56743b9850.imageClick here to register for Science in the Virtual Pub sponsored by the Paleontological Research Institution. Enter your info and you will receive a link shortly before the presentation.

To Our Supporters, Members, And Friends

To: Our Supporters, Members, And Friends

As you know, the COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented health crisis and the worst natural disaster of our time. Our downstate neighbors in New York City suffer greatly while the risk here in Erie County and elsewhere in the country grows every day. Uncertainty is the new norm, and the news is shocking and depressing. For me it is incredibly painful to witness friends and loved ones succumb while medical personnel and others on the frontlines bravely fight for our lives and future.

Geologists study natural disasters; these are generally local events such as earthquakes or floods. In my last gig, I taught college students about natural disasters, and I can easily say that I never imagined or prepared my students for a global event of this magnitude. But, there are lessons to be learned from the past and how we have responded to similar challenges.

Humanity is resilient – we wouldn’t have gotten this far, after all, without some special advantages that other species don’t have. This was the premise of my TEDx talk, ironically. Humans communicate better than any other animal, we’re adaptable, and we are capable of great acts of compassion and empathy. No matter what the disaster that befalls us, history teaches that if we stick together, we can overcome problems great and small.

All nonessential New York businesses were ordered to close as of March 22 and Penn Dixie is no exception. Our 25th anniversary season is delayed indefinitely. We’ve rescheduled some programs; others are cancelled but may return if we can fit them in. Regrettably, we’ve been forced to reduce our staffing as all field trips, tours, and community events are on hold. It’s an extremely difficult and frustrating time. If he were asked, noted pessimist and Simpsons character Comic Book Guy might call it the

worst anniversary ever

If you’re concerned about the success of Penn Dixie, you’re not alone. We are a small business and are struggling like many others. Fortunately, you – and thousands of science enthusiasts like you – have supported us in the past with program fees, admissions, memberships, and donations. We set aside some of these funds for a rainy day, and well – it’s pouring!

Thankfully, local government has stepped up to ensure that we can keep the lights on this spring. I am grateful to Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz and Hamburg Town Supervisor Jim Shaw for making sure that Penn Dixie and the other cultural groups in Erie County can continue our missions despite the economic downturn. In addition, we thank Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw for personally delivering checks to these groups for expeditious relief!

If you’re able, there are many ways to help:

1) Post an online review of Penn Dixie. Online reviews factor heavily into how Penn Dixie’s website is ranked in searches, plus travelers find them extremely helpful when choosing a place to visit. Do you have a great experience to share with the world? Your words make a difference! Post a review on FacebookPost a review on Google

2) Plan to visit once we reopen. We don’t know when this will be, but I promise that the fossils are here and ready to be unearthed.

3) Send a letter or email to a local elected official to show how much you appreciate their support of places like Penn Dixie. This type of advocacy is inexpensive, efficient, and extremely effective. If you want to join our effort, please email me for details.

4) Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. Many people read the news — whether online or in print — and are curious to see how other people feel about important current issues. Elected officials love to take the temperature of the community this way, too. Bonus: Newspapers are inundated with letters discussing politics. Unique and inspiring submissions covering other topics are more likely to get published.

5) Make Hamburg Natural History Society/Penn Dixie the beneficiary of your Amazon Smile donations. When you make a purchase, Amazon will make a small donation to our organization. This option does not cost you anything extra.

6) Purchase or renew a 12-month Penn Dixie membership. Memberships directly support our programming and operations, and we could not get by without our loyal and enthusiastic member base. We will be happy to give you and your family an exciting tour of Penn Dixie once we reopen. And in the interim, members are welcome to visit on their own. You can also purchase our Membership Gift Pack as a gift for family and friends.

A bathrobe replaces my standard work clothes.

7) Make a tax-deductible donation to support our mission of hands-on science education.

I’m a little more optimistic than Comic Book Guy! Penn Dixie will be back, and we’ll be here to help you unwind, get some fresh air, and break a few rocks. Please stay safe and healthy.

Dr. Phil Stokes, Executive Director

P.S. Our office is closed, so please email our exoskeleton crew if you need something (form at bottom of page).

Updated Booking Information

Parties wishing birthdays, private tours, and group tours are welcome to book dates after June 1. Obviously, we will make sure that health officials have declared public gatherings to be safe for your tour to proceed. Otherwise, we are happy to reschedule or refund your deposit. Since our office is closed, please contact using email or via the form on our Contact Us page.

Updated Member Policies

Penn Dixie Fossil Park & Nature Reserve is closed to the public, but per longstanding policy members may visit during daylight hours on any day of the week. Need some stress relief? The rocks are still here and are waiting for you to smash them with a hammer! Trilobites and other fossils look forward to being discovered, I believe, so you are really doing them a service in this difficult time.

When you are on site, please respect social distancing and keep at least 6 feet (2 meters) from other members. Generally, the 54-acre park only has one or two other members on site at a given time, so this shouldn’t be a problem. A face mask to protect others from airborne droplets is not a bad idea, either. If you are a Penn Dixie member and would like to visit, please email me for the full policy and access information.

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