For years there has been a disconnect between the world of academic paleontologists and the world of amateur paleontologists. The academics – responsible for building what we know of the past by way of research, data analysis, and scientific publications into peer reviewed journals. The amateurs – responsible for nothing more than collecting fossils through endless hours of hunting, or at least that’s what most have thought. Today we see a revolution of this relationship taking place. A revolution owed in part to the open mind of Dr. Bobby Boessenecker – the lead “whaleonotologist” at the Mace Brown Museum at College of Charleston. The Mace Brown Museum is a small, non funded museum housed on the 2nd floor of the School of Science and Mathematics building of the College of Charleston in Downtown Charleston and is home to around 15,000 fossils – many of which were collected and donated by local amateur paleontologists over the years.
What makes Mace Brown different? They do not have storage space for specimens so they only take what is deemed scientifically significant and can be used in future or ongoing research. What makes Dr. B different? Dr. B is one of a select handful of academic paleontologists that appreciate the efforts made by amateurs to locate and recover specimens and gladly accepts them for use in his research. As a result, we are now witnessing a new age of academics and amateurs coming together in a beautiful effort to understand more about the marine environment present in the Coastal plain of South Carolina during the Eocene, Oligocene, and Miocene of South Carolina – a feat that has never before been done.
The Palmetto team as a whole believes in supporting the advancement of paleontological research and contributing to the paleontological record for South Carolina and when it comes to our donations of specimens – Dr. B at the Mace Brown Museum is definitely our go to choice! I think my favorite part of working with Dr. B is that when I find something that interests Dr. B, he automatically knows exactly what he wants to use the specimen for and I never have to doubt whether or not my specimen will ever see the light of day again. Knowing that my contributions help give support to his and others research and do not just collect dust on a shelf in a dark warehouse brings me a great deal of comfort. Dr. B, without knowing it, makes way for the dreams of those outside of the academic world to come true by allowing us all to in some way shape or form participate and contribute to paleontological research.
For anyone planning a trip with Palmetto, I would highly recommend scheduling a tour at the Mace Brown Museum as well! Entry is free however donations are gladly accepted! While on your tour you will have the opportunity to see several breath taking specimens including a full room designated specifically to the evolution of whales (by far the most amazing display room EVER), a Megalodon dentry, and much more! You will also have the chance to see the “Amateurs Exhibit” which is a series of cases full of specimens recovered and donated to the Mace Brown Museum that Dr. B and his awesome wife Sarah put together in appreciation of the efforts made by locals to support their research. Trust me, this is definitely a “Must-See” that should part of every fossil hunters trip to the Lowcountry of South Carolina! Thanks Dr. B for being so awesome and we all look forward to working with you more in the future! And for anyone wanting to make donations to the Mace Brown Museum, here’s a link where you can do just that!