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.

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The unprepared trilobite as found by Jimmy Cyrus at Dig With The Experts.
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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.

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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.

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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.

Dig For Beginners

Saturday June 15, Saturday June 29, & Sunday August 11
10 am to 12 pm

New to fossil hunting?

Learn the tricks of the trade from Penn Dixie Paleontologist Dr. Holly Schreiber. Tour the site and learn all the best spots to hunt for fossils. Dr. Schreiber will teach you how to find, dig, and preserve all the fossil treasures you find.

No experience necessary. All ages welcome and no reservations needed — this program will run rain or shine.

Bring your own tools or borrow from our limited supply. Included with admission or FREE for Penn Dixie members.

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: https://www.tscwny.org/Experience-Service/AmeriCorps-Builds-Lives-through-Education-ABLE

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 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 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.

Penn Dixie Reopens!

We are excited to announce that Penn Dixie will reopen to the public on Saturday April 27! Join us from 9 am to 5 pm as we begin the 2019 season.

This year, Penn Dixie is open to the public on weekends from April 27 through October 20. 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 groups on weekdays during this time.

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. New this year, Penn Dixie will extend hours on Fridays in July from 9 am to 7 pm.

Holidays: Penn Dixie is open to the public from 9 am to 3 pm on Memorial Day (Monday May 27), Independence Day (Thursday July 4), and Labor Day (Monday September 2).

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

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.

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 online using our form or leave a message at 716-627-4560 indicating 1) member name, 2) anticipated day/time visiting Penn Dixie, 3) the total size of the party, and 4) contact info if we need to get in touch. Members should carry their cards with them during their visit.

Camps & Workshops

Children ages 8 to 13 discover the natural sciences through four different Penn Dixie adventures that emphasize hands-on learning, outdoor fun, and teamwork. All camps and workshops are open for enrollment unless otherwise indicated.

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Dinosaurs, Fossils, and Nature Camp (5 Days)

IMG_0565Our most popular camp is back! Science comes alive at two exciting sites right in your own neighborhood. On Monday and Tuesday, campers will explore geology and paleontology at Penn Dixie while collecting fossils that are older than dinosaurs. On Wednesday, campers will venture off to Past & Present in Blasdell to tour the museum and discover the mysteries of the dinosaurs from a real dinosaur hunter — Glen LaPlaca!

Campers return to Penn Dixie on Thursday and Friday to investigate our nature trails, learn about local ecology, identify, animal tracks, and more! Campers must be dropped off at partner locations.

Locations: Penn Dixie and Past & Present Science & Nature Store

Schedule: 9 am to 3 pm Monday to Friday; Extended care not available

2019 Sessions:

  • Session 1 – July 15 to 19
  • Session 2 – August 12 to 16

Rate: $200 per camper. Select either Session 1 or 2. Register by May 15 and save $5 per camper! Use code: EARLY19. Penn Dixie members please call 627-4560 for code to receive $10 off registration. Don’t delay — this camp fills quickly!

Reserve Session 1   Reserve Session 2


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Nature Expedition Camp (5 Days)

IMG_0702Children explore the natural world at three great nature centers! Campers will investigate insects and plants and learn important wilderness survival skills at Reinstein Woods. At Evangola State Park campers will visit wetlands, examine skulls, go fishing and more. Campers will head to Penn Dixie to explore paleontology, geology and collecting 380 million year old fossils. Campers must be dropped off at partner locations. Daily schedule varies by session.

Locations: Reinstein Woods Nature PreserveEvangola State Park, and Penn Dixie

Schedule: 9 am to 3 pm Monday to Friday; Extended care not available

2019 Sessions:

  • Session 1 – July 29 to August 2 (Monday-Tuesday at Penn Dixie, Wednesday-Thursday at Evangola, Friday at Reinstein Woods)
  • Session 2 – August 26 to 30 (Monday at Reinstein Woods, Tuesday-Wednesday at Penn Dixie, Thursday-Friday at Evangola)

Rate: $200 per camper/$190 for Penn Dixie and Reinstein Woods members. Select either Session 1 or 2. Register by May 15 and save $5 per camper! Use code: EARLY19. Penn Dixie and Reinstein Woods members: Call 716-627-4560 for your code to receive $10 off registration.

Reserve Session 1   Reserve Session 2


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Fossil Hunters Workshop (2 Days)

IMG_0642Aspiring paleontologists dig this workshop! Set entirely at Penn Dixie, campers will delve into paleontology through realistic field activities such as specimen collecting, cleaning, and labeling. Campers will study the rocks and minerals that makeup the crust beneath Western New York using all of the tools of a scientist. There will also be opportunities for nature hikes, ecology projects, arts and crafts, and more.

Location: Two days at Penn Dixie

Schedule: 9 am to 3 pm Monday and Tuesday; Extended care not available

2019 Sessions:

  • Session 1 – July 22 to 23
  • Session 2 – August 5 to 6

Rate: $90 per participant/$80 for Penn Dixie members. Select either Session 1 or 2. Register by May 15 and save $5 per participant! Use code: EARLY19. Members please call 716-627-4560 for $10 discount code.

Reserve Session 1   Reserve Session 2


SpaceCamp18

Space Camp Workshop (3 Days)

IMG_0525Blast off into space fun! Children will explore our solar system through science and engineering. Campers will learn about space flight through rocketry, examine microfossils that may resemble fossil life on other planets, view our sun safely through special telescopes and glasses, and participate in many other fun science and engineering activities.

During the workshop each camper will build, study, and launch two different Estes Model Rockets that he or she can keep. One optional night of stargazing just for our campers will also take place — date and time TBA. All materials are included.

Location: Three days at Penn Dixie

Schedule: 9 am to 3 pm Wednesday to Friday; Extended care not available

2019 Sessions:

  • Session 1 – July 24 to 26
  • Session 2 – August 7 to 9

Rate: $140 per camper/$130 for Penn Dixie members. Select either Session 1 or 2. Register by May 15 and save $5 per participant! Use code: EARLY19. Members: Please call 716-627-4560 for your $10 discount code.

Reserve Session 1   Reserve Session 2


Campers must register and complete all health and emergency contact forms at least one week prior to the first day of camp. Registration closes one week (7 days) prior to the first date of a camp or workshop session. Parents/guardians: Be sure to review our cancellation policy. All campers are bound to our Code of Conduct. For additional help contact Director of Education Dr. Holly Schreiber at: (716) 627-4560 or using our online form.