Palaeo@Leeds ran a stand at the Yorkshire Fossil Festival back in September. Read the following report by SEE Leeds PhD student Adam Woodhouse to find out what we got up to…
The Yorkshire Fossil Festival represents an exciting opportunity to engage with families and local schools in all aspects of the world of Geology and the Earth Sciences. The festival is an annual event held in and around the Scarborough Rotunda Museum, just a stone’s throw from the Yorkshire Coast, renowned amongst both professional and amateur fossil enthusiasts for its astonishing span of Jurassic strata.
This year’s event was incredibly well-received, not only due to the kind weather throughout the weekend, but also the huge range of fossil-based activities offered by over a dozen scientific institutes. The festival catered to over 5,000 visitors, most excited of which were the young children from the local schools on Friday morning, to which each institute had prepared an number of inspiring workshops to introduce them to the fascinating world of fossils!
The University of Leeds’ stand housed a number of varying activities prepared for the children to participate in, most popular of which being “Mass Extinction Darts”, led by Dr Alex Dunhill. This involved a map of Pangaea displaying different animals of the time. It was the children’s role to throw a number of coloured sticky-darts to try to extinguish faunas as much life as possible and in turn trigger a mass extinction! Another activity, run by Jed Atkinson, involved the construction of food webs composed of the faunas which could be found along the local Yorkshire coastline, along with real fossil examples of each animal.
We also offered insights into micropalaeontology and modern climates. Dr Allyson Tessin operated a stall detailing her recent expedition to the Arctic Ocean, titled “The Arctic Ocean Food Web: Past, Present and Future”. Here, the children were shown life aboard an oceanic expedition and how our knowledge of sea ice dynamics and the associated microfloras present at the base of the Arctic food web will be affected by future climate change. The final activity was run by Adam Woodhouse, which allowed the budding young palaeontologists a glimpse through our microscopes into the world of micropalaeontology, observing core-top samples from the Indian and Southern Ocean yielding tropical and polar planktonic foraminiferal assemblages.
The remainder of the weekend proved just as popular, the animatronic baby T. rex and Tree Stiltwalkers were particular highlights, which allowed for some fantastic photo opportunities for all our visitors! We could have been swept off our feet over the weekend, but luckily had much needed assistance from Despina Zoura, Dr Fiona Gill, Dr Karen Bacon, Fiona Pye and Prof. Paul Wignall! We would like to extend a huge thank you to Past Earth Network, The Micropalaeontological Society, and NERC for their generous sponsorship of the Palaeo@Leeds stand and hope to enlighten many more people of the wonders of fossils in the years to come!
Report by Adam Woodhouse