In the early 1980s, amateur paleontologists discovered fossils at a commercial shell pit near Tampa. Public volunteers aided museum staff to complete an extensive excavation in just 6 months, recovering over 20,000 specimens. This demonstrated the great value of volunteers at fossil digs, now common practice.
For many years fossil collecting at the Florida Museum of Natural History and most museums was limited to Museum staff and graduate students. In 1984, a huge fossil discovery south of Tampa called the Leisey Shell Pit changed the way we work at fossil sites. At that site we had such a large accumulation of fossils we required extra persons to excavate the site in a timely manner. We were able to use media — television, newspaper accounts — to attract hundreds of volunteers. From this we learned that the public’s fascination with fossils could be used to help us collect fossils at many future fossil sites. You’re always welcome to check our volunteer website to determine when the next volunteer fossil dig is occurring.
Collection Manager, Vertebrate Paleontology
Florida Museum of Natural History
Leisey Shell Pit Specimens
From Hillsborough Co., Florida
Lived ~1.5–1 million years ago
Saber-toothed Cat Tooth (Smilodon gracilis)
Tapir Jaw (Tapirus haysii)
Llama Jaw (Palaeolama mirifica)