A presentation by Ned Gilmore on fossils and those who collected them, March 21, 2023

Soon after the publicity post for Ned Gilmore’s March talk on local fossils went up in February, it drew more interest, likes, and shares than usual. A quick round of emails between board members came to a consensus.

We’re gonna need a bigger room.

Our usual meeting place in the back room of Riverton Free Library only holds less than 40 people, so we scrambled to come up with another venue.

Where can we go that can handle more people, hook us up with the necessary tech, and is free?

HSR President Bill Brown introduced Mr. Gilmore.

Heather filled out a form to request permission to use Riverton Public School, and Susan checked with school staff to ensure that chairs, some tables, and a projector with a laptop on a cart would be ready for the evening presentation.

Bill Brown, Ned Gilmore

The decision to move the presentation proved correct when 59 people showed up to attend Ned’s authoritative and detailed lecture.

There’s a reason he is nicknamed “Nature Ned.”

Ned’s experience as a local resident, collector, and Collection Manager for Vertebrate Paleontology at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University highly qualifies him to speak on how, where, and by whom fossils have been found in our state since the 1800s.

Former teacher Susan Dechnik recalled taking her 3rd-grade classes to the Academy to hear Ned. In 2015, Ned met Bill and Nancy Hall, Jeannie Francis, Linda McCormick, and me at the Academy to hear author Ken Frank’s lecture on Japanese beetles.

Academy of Nat. Sci. beetle collection 2015

While there, Ned directed us to the museum’s massive collection of the insect scourge that has infested crops here and across the US since it arrived in Dreer’s Nursery in Riverton.

Ned recalled being in Mrs. Harker’s class.

Now presenting an academic lecture in his old alma mater (RPS Class of 1974), Ned introduced his talk by displaying a photo of his first-grade class with teacher Mrs. Doris Harker.

presentation slide, N. Gilmore

Ned explained how New Jersey’s unique geology has determined where fossils of dinosaurs, giant white sharks, and mastodons have been found.

A young dinosaur enthusiast inspects fossilized fern impressions in slate

Ned illustrated his talk with slides depicting museum specimens of various eras found in New Jersey from the Academy of Natural Sciences…

…and supported it with dozens of actual fossils from the author’s collection.

Ned engaged with a young dinosaur fanatic in the first row.

At the end, Ned fielded some questions pitched by the appreciative audience that included a few enthusiastic school-age children, a demographic seldom drawn to our events. Seeing a graduate of their school may well have kids dreaming of a career in science.

Was it Ned’s reputation as an expert paleontologist, the public’s thirst to attend an event after a covid induced dearth of activity, or the ability of social media to boost events the reason for our swelled ranks that night?

A bit of all three, possibly. Whatever the case, we’ll take the win.

-JMc, photos by Susan Dechnik and JMc

 

 

Published by

John McCormick

Former teacher at Riverton School, amateur historian, Historical Society of Riverton Board Member, website and newsletter editor

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