Major Membership Update

By Dr. Phil Stokes, Executive Director


A Big Change

After 24 years, we are renovating our membership program. These changes are the direct result of member feedback that identified areas of improvement.

Beginning today, all new memberships purchased will include benefits for a 12-month period. In other words, a membership purchased on July 15, 2019 will be good until July 15, 2020.

Previously, our memberships were valid for the calendar year. This system was necessary because we did not have the means to track individual membership expiration dates. The old system frequently caused confusion and occasionally drew concerns about memberships purchased late in the season.

Now, thanks to our investment in software, we can send you an email reminder when your membership is about to expire. With over 1,200 members, this is an invaluable resource to Penn Dixie.

New Membership Levels

We have also greatly reduced the numbers of membership levels available; there are now just three: Individual; Dual; and Family. Individual membership ($40) includes benefits for one (1) named adult age 18 and up; Dual membership ($50) includes benefits for two (2) named adults age 18 and up; and Family ($60) includes benefits for two (2) named adults age 18 and up plus up to four children/grandchildren under age 18. To make sure that we can expedite your check-in at Penn Dixie, please carry your membership card with you along with a photo ID that we can use to verify your name.

Special discounts ($5) are available for seniors (62+), military, students, and teachers with valid ID. These discounts do not stack and are not available for new members online. Current senior and student members should find the discount already applied to your account.

Guest Policy

For members who wish to bring a guest to Penn Dixie: we have you covered! At all three levels members may purchase a PLUS enhancement ($20) which will allow one (1) guest to visit each time the member visits. This may be a different guest each time.

In addition, guests are welcome to visit after hours if 1) they are accompanied by a card-carrying PLUS member; and 2) follow our rules and procedures. Members are accountable for guest behavior as well as the safety of our flora and fauna. We will be diligent about enforcing our rules. Per our updated policy, members who visit after hours must sign in at the gate prior to entering Penn Dixie.

Final Thoughts

Finally, I am pleased to report that there are no major changes for current members. While we will update the database with our new levels, your existing card is valid until the written expiration date. Afterwards, your membership will renew at a level based on the table below.

Any questions, comments, or concerns? Please do not hesitate to reach out ( I look forward to an improved membership experience! We’ve got some great things in store for the future and, on behalf of our entire organization; I thank you for your ongoing support.


Current Level             Updated Level

Individual                    Individual

Student                         Individual: Special Discount

Senior                           Individual: Special Discount

Family                          Family

Grandparents              Family: Special Discount

Associate                      Individual

Patron                          Individual

Sponsor                        Individual

LIFE                               LIFE (not available for sale)

Corporate                    Corporate (not available for sale)

Search for the Golden Fossil

Saturday August 24

Did you make history as part of the World’s Largest Fossil Dig last summer at Penn Dixie Fossil Park and Nature Reserve? Don’t miss this summer’s historic Search for the Golden Fossil Scavenger Hunt!

On Saturday August 24th, teams will cross fossil pits, forests, and wetlands in the Search for the Golden Fossil at Penn Dixie Fossil Park and Nature Reserve. Hundreds of Western New Yorkers will discover local flora and fauna, past and present, while competing for exciting prizes.

We’ll offer two sessions: the Morning hunt (10 am to 12 pm) or the Afternoon hunt (2 pm to 4 pm). Sign in will begin one hour before hunt times. Participants must be signed in for kick off announcements fifteen minutes before their hunt begins.

To Join: Registration is closed; a limited number of walk-in spots are available. Please arrive between 9 and 9:30 am for morning session and between 1 and 1:30 pm for afternoon session. We accept cash or credit card.

A team of 5 signed up by a Penn Dixie Member – $40
A team of 5 signed up by a non-Penn Dixie Member – $45
Individual participants (ages 3 & up) – $10

Presented By:

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Special Thanks To:


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Notes: All ages welcome. Children younger than age 3 may attend alongside participating family members. For guest safety, children must be accompanied at all times. Most of Penn Dixie is accessible for those with mobility impairments. Please contact us by August 19 if you have specific concerns about accessibility.

Want to help us make the Search for the Golden Fossil a success? We are looking for enthusiastic volunteers and local businesses to support science education and make a difference in our community.

Please email Elizabeth Schiavoni at to learn more about volunteering and sponsorship opportunities.

Prize sponsors of the highly visible Search for the Golden Fossil will enjoy access to family audiences and local media, recognition in event materials and announcements, and being a part of educational outdoor recreation in Western New York.

Scouting Rocks!

Join us Saturday September 21 for a FREE day of science funblast!

  • Fossil collecting at the #1 fossil park in the U.S.
  • Commemorative patch for first 100 scouts
  • Nature walks at 11 am and 1 pm
  • Solar viewing, weather permitting
  • 9 am to 4 pm, rain or shine
  • No registration needed; arrive any time

Some form of official scout apparel/insignia is required for free admission. Non-scouts are welcome to participate at our regular admission rates. All children must be accompanied by an adult. No charge for Penn Dixie members.


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. 

Monthly Stargazing

Join us for an out-of-this-world experience! Our astronomers will map the night sky — including stars, planets, constellations, and deep space objects — for you using a variety of telescopes and specialized equipment. Guests are encouraged to bring lawn chairs, warm clothing, blankets, and food/beverages. We’ll have plenty of telescopes, but you can bring yours along, too, if you’d like some expert advice.

2019 Schedule

Saturday April 27, 7:45 pm
Saturday May 25, 8:15 pm
Saturday June 8, 8:15 pm (reschedule from May)
Saturday June 29, 8:30 pm
Saturday July 27, 8:15 pm
Saturday August 31, 7:30 pm
Saturday September 28, 6:30 pm
Saturday October 19, 6 pm

Admission (cash or credit) is $4. There is no charge for Penn Dixie members. Registration not required. Due to the uncertainty of weather, we will not offer advance ticketing for these programs. Stay tuned to our social media for updates.

Programs run for 2-3 hours depending on viewing conditions.

A solar eclipse viewed through Penn Dixie telescopes.

Thinking about purchasing a telescope? This telescope guide offers some great suggestions from Penn Dixie astronomer Ernie Jacobs. You can also download our Astronomy Night guide — also prepared by Ernie Jacobs — to learn more about our programs.

Penn Dixie Seeks AmeriCorps ABLE Member

Penn Dixie seeks a part time, seasonal candidate to serve as AmeriCorps ABLE Member at Penn Dixie Fossil Park & Nature Reserve for summer 2019.

The candidate will guide groups through the history and science of the site’s resources and assist groups and campers in collecting fossils and rocks and making observations/connections about plants and wildlife. The candidate will additionally work with the Director of Education to develop accessible and inclusive programming and lessons that meet NYS Science standards. The candidate will be outside all day, walking most of the day, and lifting about 20 pounds of equipment.

Training/experience in STEM plus enthusiasm for science and nature in interactions with students is required. Start/end dates: 6/24-8/18 Mon-Fri 8:30 am-5 pm. For information about Americorps ABLE and to apply, visit:

Spring Homeschool Day

Monday May 6, 10 am to 1 pm

Rain date: Wednesday May 8, 10 am to 1 pm

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 — save $1 per student with early registration. There is no charge for children aged two and under. Program is for grades 1-12; please specify your child’s grade when registering. Registration is required by 5 pm on Friday May 3. Register by Friday April 26 to receive $1 off admission.

The program begins promptly at 10 am; check-in at 9:30. Please arrive 10-15 minutes early to allow for check-in, bathroom use, other preparations. 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.

All attendees are encouraged to bring their own garden trowel, bucket, and plastic or canvas bags to store fossils. Penn Dixie also has a limited number of trowels available for loan during the program.

If you are unable to register online, please contact Dr. Holly Schreiber at 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 registrations made after May 3.

Refund policy: In the event of light to moderate rain, the program will take still place as scheduled. Guests are advised to wear boots and rain gear. If there is heavy rain or we detect lightning on site, the program will be rescheduled to the rain date. 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.