GNSI DC: April 2002 Meeting Report-
Scientist Cliffs Fossil Walk
by Mary Ellen Didion-Carsley

The Great April Fossil Hunt at Scientist Cliff's brought together members of the GNSI and their families for a terrific day of learning and adventure on the Calvert Cliffs formation in Calvert County, Maryland . In an hour long presentation by local naturalist Sandy Roberts, long time resident of the Scientists' Cliffs community, Guild members were enlightened on the community history, geology and familiar fossils to be found in the area. The community itself was started by a group of University of Maryland botanists headed by Flippo Gravatt as a research station primarily for the study of rhododendron hybrids, many of which thrive only in this small community. Over the course of years, the area developed into a summer retreat for university professors and their families and now is a community of 200 log cabins amid tulip poplars and surrounded by the American Chestnut Land Trust.

Maryland State Fossil: Ecphora Shell
Maryland State Fossil Shell
Ecphora gardnerae gardnerae (Wilson)
by Mary Ellen Didion-Carsley
The cliffs were laid down over the course of hundreds of thousands of years during the Miocene period and are composed predominately of clay sediments, which were once the sea floor. Now the the sea floor is the Calvert Cliffs formation, rising above the Chesapeake Bay's waters. The process of erosion has created a dramatic beachscape along the Chesapeake Bay and exposes new fossils daily. The fossils range from an almost limitless quantity of shellfish to early marine mammals, including whales and dolphins, as well as, the most sought after souvenir of the area, shark's teeth. The fossils of Calvert Cliffs are among the earliest fossils that were collected and described from the New World.

The group got a chance to familiarize themselves with the fossils before the beach walk in the community's tiny natural history museum on the lower level of the Chestnut Cabin, the local recreation cabin overlooking the bay, which served as our meeting house for the day.

After Ms. Robert's talk and museum visit, the group departed to explore 2-3 miles of the beach to the north toward the Parker's Creek area which currently has the best fossils in evidence. The walk was enhanced through the guidance of Dave Bohaska, Smithsonian scientist and specialist in ancient marine mammals and the knowledge of GNSI member, Mary Parrish, who has walked these beaches since she was a child. The weather was wonderful and everyone it seemed to find a treasure to share with the group and take home. Time slipped away from us on the beach and what started out as an hour and half walk eased into a three hour sojourn. In the fall, it is hoped that the D.C. Chapter will be able to enlists the community's cooperation again for a canoe expedition down Parker's Creek, a salt-fresh water estuary that is home to endangered tiger beetles and bald eagles. If you couldn't make it this time, hopefully you can join us then!

GNSI DC members in Scientist Cliff's museum and lodge.
GNSI members listen closely as fossils are presented for study in the Scientist Cliff's community museum.
Local naturalist Sandy Roberts lectures on fossils
Local naturalist Sandy Roberts tells fossil tales.
Members on the beach between cliffs and water.
Members comb the beaches for fossils. No digging in the cliffs is allowed except by authorized scientists. Erosion is a major worry for community residents.
Andrew Recher looks for fossils
Andrew Recher and is puppy/dog have one last look before heading back to the cabin.
Britt Griswold Relaxes on a log
Britt Griswold surveys the cliffs from a comfotable resting spot.
Sketch of the cliffs by Mary Ellen Didion-Casley
Impressions of Scientist Cliffs fro the scketch book of Mary Ellen Didion-Carsley

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