Community digs beneath the surface at Edelman Fossil park


This past Saturday, Glassboro community members gathered for an event 231.4 million years in the making.

The Edelman Fossil Park’s annual “Dig Day” brought out hundreds of people to the New Jersey famous fossil bed to learn more about the prehistoric creatures that roamed the state millions of years ago.

The fossil park, located in Sewell, N.J., was the latest project donated to the university by Jean and Ric Edelman, Rowan University alumni. Before purchasing and donating the land that hosts the fossil park, the Edelman’s donated funds for the Edelman Planetarium.

“We spent a lot of time over the years dealing with STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] education, which led us to fund the planetarium years ago, recognizing that we don’t have enough students who are going through the sciences…” Ric Edelman said. “That’s going to, in the long term, be a competitive disadvantage for our nation. So we need to get students excited about science.”

Ric went on to explain that the best ways to get kids excited about science is to get them excited at a young age, which was a driving factor behind the plans for the fossil park.

This year’s “Dig Day” featured events such as hands-on digging for fossils, exhibits showing the benefits of STEM and STEAM (science, technology, education, arts and mathematics), raisin cookie excavation challenge games, and a book signing for dean of the School of Earth and Environment, who is also director of the fossil park, Dr. Kenneth Lacovara. The new book is called Why Dinosaurs Matter. Along with other departments from the university on display.

Before groups of families dug in the quarry, Dr. Lacovara gave a speech to introduce the fossil park. He also gave a brief history about the land and fossils they might find.

At today’s dig, some of the most common items participants found were fragment of sponges, bacteria defecation, clam shells, oyster fragments, brachiopods and corals. Which were all found on the land that dates back to over 65-million-years-old.

“[The most fun thing today] was to dig and find the fossils and learning about the different dinosaurs,” said eight-year-old Lily Golden of Mantua Township.

The day’s events were tailored to suit all ages, from small children to adults, and was expected to have around 2,000 visitors. Ric explained that the main attraction to this site is that this fossil park is the only place where visitors can bring home the fossils they find. As well as the historical aspect of New Jersey being one of the first places dinosaurs were discovered.

“The two thousand spots were filled in 31 minutes,” said Heather Simmons, associate director of the fossil park. “It would’ve been less time if the website didn’t crash seven times.”

In addition to the quarry where visitors can dig for fossils, plans are being made to extend the experience beyond just the hands-on digging. Over the course of the next three years, the Edelmans and others involved with the fossil park plan to build a museum and visitor center. As well as eventually have the site open to the public seven days a week, 365 days a year, rather than just the annual community digs and for private group events.

No construction has begun on these new buildings yet, as they are still in the process of conducting a feasibility study to establish to what extent they can build up the area.

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