Monday, May 24, 2010

Steven C. Minkin Paleozoic Footprint Site Update

Cindy Wallace was on a field trip with her son, Gavin, to one of the world's richest sites for Coal Age fossils, the former Union Chapel surface coal mine located near Sumiton in Walker County.

While Gavin scoured the rock piles for fossils, Wallace used a tiny watch screwdriver and a rock to chip at a piece of slate. When the layers broke apart, it revealed the hand-sized tracks of Attenosaurus subulensis, a wolf-sized salamander that was the largest terrestrial creature living during the period prior to the emergence of the dinosaurs.

"It has some of the best preserved tracks of the Attenosaurus that have been found," said Carl Sloan, secretary of the Alabama Paleontological Society, which has been instrumental in the discovery, preservation and fossil collection at the Union Chapel Mine site.

Jun Ebersole, the collections manager of McWane Science Center, agreed.

"The tracks are some of the best ever found in the state," he said.

At the time the Attenosaurus was prowling Walker County, the area was an alluvial plain of tropical forest and tidal flats on the coast of an ancient ocean. The remains of the lush tropical forests accumulated in thick blankets of peat which were then covered over and buried. Over time, under pressure and heat, the peat was transformed into the coal deposits the region is known for.

The Union Chapel Mine site was discovered in 1999 by a high school science teacher, Ashley Allen, who found a treasure trove of fossil impressions of plants and animals from the Coal Age in the area.

The mine was due to be covered over under the requirements of the Mining Reclamation Act until a coalition of amateur fossil hunters waged a campaign to have it preserved.

Currently owned by the state of Alabama, the site, now known as the Steven C. Minkin Paleozoic Footprint Site, has produced thousands of plant fossils and animal and insect tracks. The Paleontology Society manages access to the site, and visitors are allowed to keep fossils unless they are deemed to be significant enough to merit further study or inclusion in a museum collection. Wallace's find is headed for the McWane Center collection.

Wallace had taken her 12-year-old son, Gavin, on the expedition with Fresh Air Family, an organization that leads parents and children on outdoor explorations around the state.

But for Cindy Wallace, the Attenosaurus tracks were her first find.

"It was my very first fossil," Wallace said.

For more information regarding the Stephen C. Minkin fossil site please refer to an article from Outdoor Alabama at the following

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Recent outdoor classroom activities

The Walker County Soil and Water Conservation District in partnership with The Natural Resources Conservation Service, The Walker County Forestry Planning Committee, The Alabama Forestry Commission, Alabama Power and The Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries has conducted two different outdoor classrooms in the past week.

The first outdoor classroom event was held on May 14, 2010, with the second through fifth grade students at T.R. Simmons School. This classroom was held at the nature trail at T.R. Simmons. There were 3 learning stations where students learned what watershed they live in as well as how pollutants can contaminate our water supply, they also learned about wildlife habitat and the difference between forest fires and controlled burns.

The second outdoor classroom event was held on May 20, 2010, with the second grade students from Valley School at the Clear Creek Recreation Area. There were 4 learning stations at this event. The stations were the same as the T.R. Simmons event with the addition of a station where the students were able to see water quality tests being performed.

The students at both events were very attentive and asked alot of great questions. The weather was great for both events with the presenters having as much fun as the students!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

State land judging contest

Congratulations to the Curry High School land judging team for placing 5th in the state land judging contest that was held on April 16, 2010 in Lineville, AL.

Local FFA livestock, forestry and tractor driving competition

Curry High School, Oakman High School and Carbon Hill School recently participated in the annual livestock, forestry and tractor driving competitions that were held on April 23, 2010. The livestock competition was held at the farm of Dorman Grace. Mr Grace has held the livestock competition at his family farm for the last 15 years. The Curry High School team won the livestock competition as well as having Jamie Campbell on their team who was the high point scorer for this competition. The forestry competition was held at the Walker County Lake. This competition is held at different locations each year which allows the students an opportunity to judge different types of forest land. The Curry High School team won the forestry competition as well as having Riley Goforth on their team who was the high point scorer for the competition. The tractor driving competition was held at Curry High School. This competition will be alternated between the schools that participate in the yearly competition. The Curry High School team won the tractor driving competition as well as having Chase Hammock on their team who was the high point scorer.

After the competitions, all participates, judges and volunteers met back at the Alabama Cooperative Extension System office for lunch and for the winners to be announced. Lunch was provided by the Walker County Forestry Planning Committee. Additional agencies that assisted with the competition were the Alabama Forestry Commission, Natural Resource Conservation Service and the Walker County Soil and Water Conservation District. We would also like to offer a special thanks to Danny Cain and Russ Runyan.