Wednesday, 10 February 2021


An old friend connected via social media to ask how he can best support his seven-year-old daughter's love of palaeontology. That is a question I love to hear! Now, my personal response is a bit of a tidal wave — buy her books, and rocks and a rock tumbler... take her out on fossil field trips, bring her to museums — fuel the flames of that passion for palaeo. Take no prisoners. Get her good and hooked! 

A love of palaeontology spills over to other areas of science and will help spark an interest in biology, ecology and natural history. In a perfect storm, the whole family catches the bug and summer field trips turn to trips from March to October or as soon as the snow clears.

If you are looking to purchase some fossils — be mindful not to purchase Canadian specimens — then Etsy is a good general source. Since we are living in the new normal of Covid, I would also turn to Amazon as a book source and take a boo at their starter rock collections and rock tumblers.

Local museums are a wonderful source of inspiration and tend to favour local fossil specimens. I particularly like the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, Alberta and the Courtenay and District Museum on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Seeing these is useful as it gives you the visual aid you'll need when collecting out in the field.  

Eyewitness Books: Fossils

If you are looking for resources and are readying this from a laptop, you'll see a column down the right-hand side of the page with a whole host of yummy options from books to gear. It is targeted at a slightly older audience, but I'll add some titles that might appeal to a younger audience. 

Ashley Hall did up quite a good children's book targeted for those aged 6-8 years old: Fossils for Kids: A Junior Scientist's Guide to Dinosaur Bones, Ancient Animals, and Prehistoric Life on Earth. It is available on Amazon and includes some wonderful images and covers all the introductory topics one would want to see in a first book on fossils. She also has a nice homage to her parents who inspired and encouraged her love of palaeontology. Dean Lomax and Darren Naish have published some worthy books that make a great addition to the family library.

Eye Witness has produced some wonderfully visual books on fossils. They are general, but that is the perfect place to start. Some folk love dinosaurs, others are into shark's teeth. Myself, I love all the wee invertebrates.  I love a good visual with a bite-size bit of information so you can digest it easily. I have sliced more than one Eyewitness book apart to laminate a section for use in kid's palaeontology courses. 

Some of these topics were touched upon in Season One of the Fossil Huntress Podcast. There is a wee cast on the legal side of palaeo that is worth a listen if you are planning to head out collecting or find yourself tempted to purchase Canadian specimens.

One of the best things about palaeontology is that it can be enjoyed at any age and everyone can contribute to science. Young, old, rich, poor, boy, girl, professional or vocational — fossils do not discriminate. You can be in elementary school and find a new dinosaur or marine reptile species. 

Some of the most significant finds in Canada and around the world are credited to youngsters — from the likes of Mary Anning to British Columbia's first marine reptile and dinosaur finds. The first elasmosaur in British Columbia was found by a young girl and her father. The dinosaurs up near Tumbler Ridge were found by two boys tubing along a river. 

Families and friends out for a stroll have found fossil bits and bones from many new species. The pterosaur Vectidraco was found by a four-year-old, who was honoured through the species name V. daisymorrisae. The Late Jurassic herbivorous dinosaur, Chilesaurus diegosuarezi, from Chile, was discovered by a seven-year-old while his parents briefly distracted — a lucky bit of timing for us all.  

So, if you're reading this, JD, I'm thrilled for you! Fuel the flames. Encourage her love of fossils, science and the natural world.