When it rains, it pours. This makes two consecutive issues of the Chronicles when I have had to announce the passing of someone special in our paleo community. It is with a heavy heart that I report to you the loss of Dr. S. David Webb.
Dr. S. David Webb
1936 - 2019
If you are new to fossil hunting or new to the club, you may not know who Dr. S. David Webb is. You won’t have to read very long about Florida paleontology before you start seeing his cites listed everywhere. For forty years Dr. Webb was curator and professor at the Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida. He was instrumental in creating the Florida Fossil Permit. Some have said the fossil permit never would have happened without him.
His work on Ice Age mammals (especially camels) is cited in just about every book or paper on the subject. He is credited with contributing greatly to the theory of the Great American Biotic Interchange. In the Scientific community, that is probably what he is most well known for. Dr. Webb is also credited with his extensive excavations and research with his team at the Aucilla River Prehistory Project.
Dr. Webb is well known for inviting the Florida amateur paleontologist to make real contributions in science. His love and respect for amateurs left a legacy at the Florida Museum of Natural History that continues to this day. It is because of Dr. Webb that Florida amateurs play a larger role in the science of paleontology than in any other state.
When Dr. Webb left Florida it was a hard pill for the paleo community to swallow. Rumors swarmed that Dr. Webb had sworn off fossils, or maybe he’d just gone mad. No one could seem to accept the fact that the man simply had other passions and interests, and not many knew Dr. Webb had long been a cowboy at heart. He retired to Anaconda, Montana with his wife, Dr. Barbara Webb, to run an equestrian themed lodge. He suffered only a short illness and succumbed to pancreatic cancer. Dr. Barbara Webb told me he was very active right up until a few weeks before his death.
On a personal note… My wife Seina and I were fortunate enough to be attendance at the 2015 First Floridians Conference held near Tallahassee, Florida. We had no idea the conference had brought in Dr. Webb to attend and present at the event. Luck of the draw, we took seats near the front of the auditorium and up walked Dr. Webb to ask if the seat next to us was taken.
For the next few days Dr. Webb entertained us with whispered comments during presentations. He explained to us things he knew we didn’t understand and filled in gaps in scientific history regarding some of the presentations. We joined him for dinner at a local Mexican restaurant where he discussed his work, but talked more about horses and how much he was enjoying time with his wife in Montana. For Seina and me, it was like spending time with a true celebrity.
I would never have thought that Dr. Webb would have given my wife and me much more of a thought. Some months later though, we received a heavily padded envelope from Anaconda, Montana. In it were two trilobites (a species unknown by me), and the following letter written on a napkin.
Dear Mike and Seina:
Forgive the stationary, I’m in the field. Just a quick note to say thanks – on two counts:
1. The good taco dinner; and
2. The excellent company!
Really enjoyed hearing of your excellent work in the Rainbow. Fond memories of my 4 Florida decades. Enclosed a couple of items I just ran into in SW Utah.
Cheers, Dave Webb
I can’t tell you how moved Seina and I were by the gesture. Rest in Peace Dr. Webb. In your honor, TBFC moves forward.
TBFC got off to a great start at the September meeting. We had nearly a hundred folks show up to learn a little bit about Florida’s Cenozoic nautiloids with UF’s Carmi Thompson. It was TBFC’s first meeting back after our summer break and it was great to faces I haven’t seen since May.
Dr. Gregory Herbert
Conservation Paleobiology – Why We Need the Past
University of South Florida
October 5, 2019 – 7PM
We finally get another speaker from right here on campus. Dr. Greg Herbert has been a paleobiology professor in the USF School of geosciences since 2004 and is also director of the Institute for the Advanced Study of Culture and the Environment and an affiliated faculty in the Department of Anthropology. His current research combines paleobiology methods and concepts to address urgent societal problems, especially the health of Florida’s coastal marine ecosystems. Dr. Herbert’s presentation will explain how fossils help to describe prehistoric environments.
Join TBFC for another great lecture and paleo evening. Don’t forget, meetings are starting at 7PM.
National Fossil Day
TBFC has again partnered with the National Parks Service and the Florida Aquarium to bring National Fossil Day to the Tampa Bay area. The Florida Aquarium has been gracious enough to host TBFC and Fossil Day since this special day began back in 2010 and it seems like each year the Aquarium’s events for Fossil Day get bigger and bigger.
In 2010 we started with a simple display table of TBFC’s fossils and replicas. Over the years the event has grown to include many displays throughout the Aquarium where we display fossils related to some of the living creatures on exhibit.
If you haven’t visited the Florida Aquarium recently, this is the perfect time to come check it out and celebrate Fossil Day with TBFC.