Paleontologist discusses fossil importance on National Fossil Day

Reagan Ritterbush

As part of National Fossil Day, the National Parks Service sponsored a celebration at the Texas Memorial Museum Wednesday intended to raise interest and appreciation among the public for fossils. 

Pamela Owen, the associate director of the Texas Memorial Museum, helped organize this event to encourage UT students to learn more about the history, value and impact fossils have on Texas heritage.

Owen said the study of fossils is a way for people to learn about the diversity in structure and lifestyles of organisms, and about how surrounding environments play into the evolution of the human race. 

“Fossils are rare treasures that hold a wealth of information about the places they came from,” Owen said. “You don’t have to take a geology class to know that fossils are the key into our past.”

Owen spoke at the celebration about the effect fossils have on our past as well as our future. She said learning about how organisms survived and become extinct can teach people now how to deal with their own changing world.

“We are trying to find our own place in the circle of life,” Owen said. “As creatures, we need to be able to appreciate how past creatures play into future ones.”

Geological sciences freshman Brooke Dunn said Owen’s speech made her aware of how to predict what species may survive in the future and of the need to stop certain animals from becoming extinct.

“It’s scary to think that a creature that is here one day can be gone the next because it can’t adapt,” Dunn said. “We need to be able to learn how to stop this, and fossils might be the answer.”

The celebration featured several activities and discussions of different creatures and how changing environments led to their extinction. 

Scheduled events include fossil identifications, fossil dig pits, a lecture on saber-toothed cats and an Ice Age arts activity. 

Geological science sophomore Nathan Leva said through these activities, he learned about the methods paleontologists use to identify fossils and how bones can be preserved for so long.

“I got to witness the evolution of species over time,” Leva said. “I’ve always thought it was interesting how creatures adapted to their changing environments in order to survive.”