Did you find a Michigan fossil? Identify it with this new online guide

ANN ARBOR, MICH. – With so many treasures to discover along our beaches and lakes, Michigan is a proverbial gold mine for hunting dogs and amateur fossil hunters.

Now, a new online guide from the University of Michigan Paleontology Museum aims to help people identify some of these ancient Michigan finds.

The recently launched MI Backyard Fossils guides users through the categories of fossils commonly found in Michigan through the state’s unique geological history. Using photos and identifying tips, the guide serves as a starting point for a user to identify their find before contacting one of the museum’s experts for help, if needed.

“One of the main requests we get from people are emails with, ‘Hey, I found this in my backyard’ or ‘I found this when I was hiking, can you tell me? help understand what it is? Says Jennifer Bauer, paleontologist and museum research collection manager at the Museum of Paleontology.

“We wanted to have a space for people to come and try to walk through it on their own before contacting us. Going through this process gives you a little more ownership of what you have, what you have found, which I think is very powerful.

Millions of years ago, the land now known as Michigan was actually the bottom of a shallow tropical sea. Later it was home to hard glacial terrain. These distinct geological chapters created conditions that now allow us to find fossils like our beloved stone Petoskey (the remains of a type of coral), but also water lilies, trilobites, seashells and even mastodon teeth. and mammoths.

People can find out more about these geological periods through another new online resource known as Beyond Exhibits: Life Through the Ages: a site that digitizes, in navigable 3D, dioramas of ancient Earth history that stand together. once found at the University of Michigan’s Museum of Natural History. The site gives users the ability to move through scenes depicting specific geological eras, and click on animals and plants to learn more and view their fossilized forms.

The hope for both sites, says Bauer, is to encourage more people of all ages, regardless of their prior knowledge of paleontology, to connect to the vast resource that is the online fossil repository of the university (UMORF).

“We have millions of specimens here, and they’re all hidden in cupboards,” says Bauer. “One of the main objectives of UMORF is to make them more accessible to researchers and the public. “

MI Backyard Fossils and Life Through the Ages will continue to develop alongside the further digitization of the UMORF collection.

For more information visit MI backyard fossils and Beyond exhibitions: life through the ages.


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