National Fossil Day sparks interest from Iowan paleontologists, students

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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- It's National Fossil Day across the country and Iowa is a surprising hotbed for fossil hunters.

A fossil from a sloth, collected at the University of Iowa Paleontology Repository.

There are literally tons of fossils that come to the University of Iowa Paleontology Repository, and over half of them have actually been found here in Iowa.

According to experts like Tiffany Adrain, the Collections Manager at the repository, some 375 million years ago, Iowa was underwater Many of these fossils are marine vertebrae pieces found inside of rocks.

They even have a fossils from mammoths and giant sloths.

Tiffany explained these fossils provide an excellent window into how powerful extinction can be.

"Extinction isn't just a thing of the past," Adrain said. "It isn't something that happened many many millions of years ago and it's never going to happen again. I think we have to be really aware of what may drive extinctions nowadays."

One of the main initiatives of National Fossil Day is to encourage younger people to be interested and engaged in paleontology.

Some of the students involved in the geosciences department at the University of Iowa put in a lot of volunteering, as high as 300 hours a semester. They assist in cataloging the fossils and eventually will help digitize all of of these pieces, so the public can eventually access it from their website.

One of the students involved in the project explained he finds fossils and paleontology so fascinating because it provides an opportunity to literally unearth the truth about the past.

"But there's much more to everything that meets the eye for everybody," said Mitchell Carber, a senior majoring in Geosciences at the University of Iowa. "Because we mostly look at the ground but only on the soil. We don't look underneath it to try to understand what's held in the rock."

Check the next time in your garden, because you might be surprised with what you find; Miller said fossils in Iowa are often found in gravel.