An Eyecatching Trilobite

By Dr. Phil Stokes, Executive Director

I’m always elated when a guest finds a really neat fossil and 2019 Dig With The Experts provided enough excitement to carry me forward for a long while! Many collectors uncovered large, excellently preserved specimens from the newly-excavated portion of Penn Dixie Fossil Park & Nature Reserve. Complete trilobites were on the menu, and the dig did not disappoint hundreds of enthusiastic diggers like Jimmy Cyrus from Kentucky.

Jimmy large phacops 1
The unprepared trilobite as found by Jimmy Cyrus at Dig With The Experts.
Jimmy large phacops 2
Preparation a little further along.

Jimmy submitted these photos of this beautifully-prepared Eldredgeops (Phacops) rana trilobite. As you can see, the carapace is entirely intact and all of the distinctive Eldredgeops features are visible. Malcolm Thornley — one of Penn Dixie’s amazing volunteer experts — did an incredible job preparing this specimen.

Finished 1
Ta-da! Great job, Malcolm!

My most favorite attribute of our trilobites is the eyes. Once prepared, you can — with a magnifier — count the dozens of eyelets on each compound eye. But, that’s not the weirdest thing. Did you know that the eyes were located on turret-like organs which could swivel? Trilobites could rotate their eyes in nearly 360 degrees!

Even the trilobite name — ‘Rana’ — refers to the eyes. In Latin, it means ‘frog’ due to the frog-like nature of the eyes! But, maybe there’s one more language connection to make. In Arabic, Rana is a somewhat common name. The meaning? Eyecatching. 

May 2019: Dig With The Experts

Join us for our signature event — 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.

Saturday May 18: 9 am to 4 pm
Sunday May 19: 9 am to 4 pm
Monday May 20: 9 am to 4 pm (limited staffing)

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, we are celebrating our 15th dig in 2019! Saturday participants will receive a special commemorative gift.

But, wait — there’s more! ‘Paleo’ Joe Kchodl will once again join us for a special science talk the evening before the dig. Paleo Joe will present: The Fossil Adventures of PaleoJoe at on Friday May 17 at 6:30 pm in the Gateway Building Auditorium, 3556 Lakeshore Road in Blasdell, NY. This family-friendly presentation is FREE for Penn Dixie members AND registered dig guests, or $5 for the public. No reservations needed.

Tickets:
Saturday May 18: SOLD OUT
Sunday May 19: SOLD OUT
Weekend Pass: SOLD OUT
Monday May 20: Included for all guests.

Director’s Notes: This program will sell out — please reserve early. In commemoration of our 15th dig, we offer Child (under age 18) tickets for Sunday’s dig at $15 each. Children are welcome to attend on Saturday at the regular rate. We do not recommend that children under age 7 attend this program due to the technical and safety requirements. 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. Children must be accompanied at all times. Tickets are electronic and will not be mailed.

International Guests: 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.


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:

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

Penn Dixie Frequently asked questions

Report on 2016 Dig with the Experts

Updates from 2016 Dig with the Experts

2017 Dig with the Experts Updates

Some general notes for those planning to attend:

  1. We will be open on Monday May 29 — Memorial Day. Admission on this day will be free for anyone who registered for the dig. Regular admission rates will be available for the general public. There is no need to sign up to visit on Monday. Penn Dixie will be open 9-4 on Memorial Day.
  2. For those who wish to arrive early on Saturday or Sunday: The gate will open at approximately 8 am and we will begin parking guests at that time. Please be advised that our staff will not be ready to handle check-ins until shortly before 9 am.
  3. The dig officially ends at 4 pm on Saturday and Sunday. However, the site remains open until 5 pm on both days. And, you are welcome to stay late if you’d like. We just ask that you move your vehicle outside the gate so that our staff can complete the process of closing for the evening.
  4. To our out of town visitors: welcome!! Here’s a link to the Hamburg Chamber visitor’s guide with some great suggestions for restaurants and attractions: https://www.hamburg-chamber.org/explore-hamburg/
  5. Don’t forget that PaleoJoe Kchodl will present Trilobite Treasures: Arthropods of the Ancient Seas on Friday at 6:30 pm in the Gateway Auditorium at 3556 Lakeshore Road in Blasdell. Joe is a real treasure to the science education community and we are excited about having him back again this year. https://penndixie.org/trilobite-treasures/
  6. If you’re new to Penn Dixie, be sure to check out our FAQ.  https://penndixie.org/2016/07/10/frequently-asked-questions/

Annual dig has $32k impact

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Fossil hunters at the 2016 Dig with the Experts program in May.

A newly released report from the Hamburg Natural History Society (HNHS) finds that the Penn Dixie Paleontological & Outdoor Education Center’s annual fossil dig — Dig with the Experts — contributed greater than $32,000 in total economic impact to the Hamburg area in 2016.

You can download the Penn Dixie Dig with the Experts report in PDF format.

The report examined the economic benefits generated from the one-day fossil collecting program in which visitors were invited to collect fossils in a freshly excavated portion of the site’s 54-acre quarry. Paleontologists from the Cincinnati area supervised the dig, where participants could unearth 380 million-year-old rocks in search of marine fossils such as trilobites and brachiopods.

Visitors stayed in local lodgings, dined at local restaurants, and visited area attractions while they were in town. About 40 percent of the dig 165 attendees traveled from outside the Buffalo area; a similar number were first-time visitors to Penn Dixie.

HNHS Director David Hanewinckel, who authored the study, stated “We knew Penn Dixie had an economic effect on the area, but before this study, we didn’t know how much we contributed. Now, we have a good number and look forward to continuing success.” The study was conducted by Hanewinckel, HNHS Executive Director Phil Stokes, and Dr. Roger Levine, an independent consultant formerly of the American Institutes for Research.

Penn Dixie typically welcomes 12,000 visitors each year; visitors from 31 states and four countries have visited to date in 2016. Penn Dixie was recognized as the top fossil park in the U.S. following a 2011 study published by the Geological Society of America.