Exhibit Installation May 14 - 22
New exhibits will be installed in the new visitor center May 14 - 22. Access to the park film and exhibits may be reduced. You may want to consider visiting after May 23 if you schedule permits. The park remains open every day from 9am - 5pm.
Cliff and Jean Dickey
Scientific studies have been conducted at Florissant since the 1870’s. Maintaining an active research program is a primary part of the monument’s mission. The paleontology program is overseen by the park paleontologist. The program conducts research, inventories and monitors fossil sites, publishes information and provides education to the public, and oversees research done by other institutions.
Current research includes:
Inventory and Monitoring Program
How many fossil sites are there at Florissant? What condition are they in? These are the primary questions that drive the inventory and monitoring program at Florissant.
Inventory and monitoring includes utilizing state-of- the-art technology such as GPS systems, digital photography, and complex databases.
First, all of the fossil sites that are recognized within the Monument are inventoried to document their location and create a map and a set of photographs which can be used for future comparisons. During the years that follow, each of these sites is monitored to observe any changes in its condition, either natural or human-induced, that are taking place over time.
The fossil resources within the monument range from giant redwood stumps preserved in volcanic mudflows to delicate plants and insects embedded within thin paper shale. All of the fossils, both large and small, are very fragile, and this creates the need for annual monitoring of each known site.
Some sites are in locations that make them susceptible to erosion, whereas others are vulnerable to possible illegal collecting. Once data are collected during monitoring, they are entered into a secure internal database that stores the history of current and past observations. Photographs and observations for each site are uploaded for future monitoring. Monitoring is conducted as often as once yearly, depending on the location, fragility and vulnerability of the site.
One of the most commonly asked questions at Florissant is, “Are you still ‘digging’ for fossils?” It is part of the park’s mission to conduct excavations for research as long as they are done in a sustainable manner.
Excavations are either conducted by the park paleontologist and staff, or by permitted, academic institutions.
The excavations are small in scale and may involve one or two people and lasting for one or two days.
The actual process of excavating for fossils is slow and meticulous. An area is selected to be excavated. Often a column is dug and measured. Notes are taken as the process continues. Rocks are collected and then brought back to the lab to be searched for fossils. Fossils of insects, leaves, fish, etc. are found in the shale by splitting the rocks open. Many of the mammal fossils have been found in mud by using a screen.
After fossils are collected from an excavation they are assigned a number and they become part of the park collection. This process is called accessioning. The fossils are then tracked through a computer database and are available for research by park staff or outside researches. The collections are managed so that they protect the fossils and provide for easy searching for specimens.
Did You Know?
Up to 1,500 different kinds of fossil insects have been found in the Florissant Fossil Beds making it one of the most diverse insect fossil sites in the world.