October 12, 2022 is the 13th National Fossil Day™! What is National Fossil Day (NFD)? An initiative of the National Park Service, led by NPS senior paleontologist Vincent Santucci, National Fossil Day was established in 2010 as a key part of Earth Science Week (https://www.earthsciweek.org/). Many organizations assisted NPS with planning for the first year of NFD, including the Bureau of Land Management, National Forest Service, United States Geological Survey, the National Museum of Natural History, American Geosciences Institute (organizer of Earth Science Week), National Science Foundation, Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, Paleontological Society, and the Geological Society of America.
The mission of NFD is to “to promote public awareness and stewardship of fossils, as well as to foster a greater appreciation of their scientific and educational values.” It does so by having the National Park Service act in partnership with other federal agencies, state agencies such as state geological surveys, numerous museums and fossil sites, avocational fossil groups, and professional organizations. Starting with 125 partners in its first year, this has expanded to 421 partners across the United States. The NPS and the NFD partners sponsor a wide variety of events to coincide with the celebration, including demonstrations, lectures, opportunities to chat with paleontologists, fossil collecting and giveaways, and identification of fossils brought in by the public. Wherever you are, there should be a National Fossil Day event near you!
One of the highlights to me of NFD is the beautiful artwork that accompanies it. This year’s, shown here, is in celebration of the 150th anniversary of Yellowstone National Park and its fossil record, which spans five hundred million years. The artwork shows Yellowstone during the Eocene, when carnivorous mammals such as Didymictis crawled through a forest and huge titanotheres walked along a nearby river. A titanothere also appears in the official NFD logo, shown at the top of the page. I played a small role in the 2013 artwork, which featured a eurypterid, by acting as a technical advisor. All of the artwork can be freely downloaded. There is also an annual art contest on that year’s theme; this year it was “The Age of Mammals in our National Parks and Monuments”. I especially enjoy the contributions by the younger artists.
Just like every day is really Mother’s Day, to paleontologists every day is fossil day. National Fossil Day is a unique and exciting opportunity for us to share our love of the history of life on Earth. Check out the NFD website to learn more!