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Celebrating fossil discoveries

10/11/2013

By MIKE CORN

By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

Taking a cue from past celebrations, Sternberg Museum of Natural History is going all out for Wednesday's National Fossil Day.

A highlight of the event will be the recognition of Quinter's Bird family, whose land has given up a pair of well-preserved fossils, one of which already is on display at Fick Fossil Museum in Oakley.

The second, being donated to Sternberg, is an extremely well-preserved turtle -- one that's better preserved than the protostega already on display at the museum, according to Mike Everhart, adjunct curator of paleontology.

Everhart brought the fossil back to Hays on Wednesday, after spending time studying it in detail for a forthcoming paper.

"It will be part of the display," he said of the 32-inch wide, 4-feet long turtle fossil. Its flippers added another 4 feet to its size.

It's close to the size of a Volkswagen, he said.

And best of all, Everhart said, it came from a site about a quarter-mile from where George Sternberg, former curator of the museum that bears the family name, pulled up the fish-within-a-fish fossil. It also came from about 200 feet from the piece that's already on display in Oakley.

Despite the pomp-and-circumstance that will come from the recognition, it likely will be a busy place for elementary school children who will swoop into the museum during the morning hours.

It won't be the pitter-patter of tiny feet, but instead the roar of more than 370 elementary school students rushing from station to station.

Sternberg's new education director, David Levering, said the morning will be awash in school children, a scene that's been played out twice before and has been hugely popular.

Two years ago, Sternberg was the site for a celebration of the double rediscovery of the critically endangered black-footed ferret. A year later, the museum came to life once again with an event focusing on threatened and endangered species.

While Wednesday's event will be all about fossils, it won't be an entirely dead topic.

There will be, Levering said, five stations set up in the museum featuring live animals -- each one of which will offer a glimpse in how scientists study modern-day animals to learn more about those long-dead.

The event will closely follow past events, starting with an introductory welcome and discussion, followed by groups traipsing through the museum and the stations to be set up.

The event won't end once the school children go home, however.

Beginning at 2 p.m., the turtle will be received.

"We already have one on display, but this one is a little nicer," Levering said.

From 4 to 6:30 p.m., the museum's focus will shift to the general public.

Best of all, there's no admission charge throughout the day.

"What we're trying to do is encourage the general public to come from 4 to 6:30 p.m.

And against from 6:30 to 8 p.m., where a series of a bit more scientific presentations will be offered by Everhart and Levering and Laura Wilson, the museum's curator of paleontology.

The Discovery Room will be open for children while parents listen to the presentations.