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This weekend (March 11 & 12) at the Florida State Fairgrounds.

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President's Message


More than thirty years ago a small group of people got together and decided that Tampa needed a fossil club. And those folks had a great reason to think so; they were digging fossils in one of the most important fossil sites of the 20th century, just south of Tampa. With crowds of people gathered to dig and observe, national television cameras pointing in every direction, and local and international newspaper reporters interviewing anyone they could, it seemed like this “fossil thing” might just catch on. The Tampa Bay Fossil Club was conceived in the Leisey Shell Pits. By November 1987, the Tampa Bay Fossil Club was holding meetings at the Museum of Science & Industry (MOSI) in Tampa.

Some faces have changed over the years, some have not. The meeting venues have moved some too. But one thing that has certainly not changed is that month after month, for the next thirty years, the Tampa Bay Fossil Club has continued to meet.

TBFC’s monthly meetings are still held in the same tradition of that first meeting so many years ago; guest speakers, raffle and door prizes, and the good times shared between fossil enthusiasts from all over Florida. There are always newly found fossils in the crowd and people talking about their latest fossil hunt or the next adventure right around the corner. And just about every month we meet that new, bright eyed member, who has been looking for us their whole life. It still excites me when I see new people walk through the door and I wonder if amateur paleontology and TBFC will become as big a part of their life as it has for my wife and I.

Did TBFC’s first President, the late Ms. Rudi Johnson, have any idea that what she and her Officers had started would last and be running strong thirty years later? Some said it wouldn’t. Shortly after I took office as President of TBFC, I was told by some people that if I didn’t find another Leisey or Caloosa shell pit for our members to dig in every weekend that TBFC would eventually shrivel up and die. These sites were one in a million; once in a lifetime opportunities. And while we all hope and dream there will be, there may never be sites like Leisey and Caloosa again.

Those naysayers were wrong though about TBFC. Our membership is strong with nearly 500 members. Our treasury is in great shape and our field trips and events are popular with our members and the public. FossilFest has become one of the largest club based fossil shows in the country. The Peace River Adventure puts 300+ fossil hunters in the river in a single weekend. And it’s rare not to see nearly 100 people at TBFC’s monthly meetings. I’m here to tell you that in 2017 TBFC is alive and kicking!

So what keeps people coming back meeting after meeting, year after year? In part it’s the camaraderie, and the learning, and the great presentations put on month after month by our guest speakers. But in the end I think it’s simply, the discovery.

Discovery is what excites us. The discoveries we make, and sharing in the discoveries of our fellow club members. If you only go on one Peace River trip each year or hunt for fossils every weekend, I really believe it’s the discovery. It doesn’t matter if you’ve only found a handful of shark teeth or have a house filled with fossils, TBFC members know what it’s like to reach down and pick up that specimen that no one has ever seen or held. Every time we go into the field we dream that we’re going to find something new to us, or new to science, and it’s a possibility each and every time we reach into the past. It’s the discovery…

Congratulations TBFC, it’s your 30th anniversary!

March 4, 2017 - TBFC 30th Anniversary Celebration
Peter Larson, Black Hills Institute
The Dinosaurs of the Hell Creek
and Lance Formations

Your officers and directors began discussing TBFC’s 30th anniversary over a year ago. We all agreed we wanted to do something big and special. I think we nailed it. Peter Larson is probably the most well know dinosaur hunter in North America. No one has found more T. rex than Larson and crew. And since the release of CNN Films, “Dinosaur 13” Peter Larson is quite the celebrity. In celebration of this very special anniversary, TBFC is pleased to present to you, Peter Larson, dinosaur hunter.

I can tell you that Peter Larson is one of the most down to earth people you’re ever going to meet. And while many of you are anxious to hear about “Sue”, Peter doesn’t seem to dwell on what happened. I know he plans to discuss “Sue” and Dinosaur 13, but I know he is more excited to present his newest research to you. I’ll tell you at this point that if you haven’t seen Dinosaur 13, you need to watch it prior to meeting with Peter Larson (order it on Amazon, or check it out on your “On Demand” feature with your cable television provider). You need to know the story of what happened when his crew unearthed the largest, most complete, and most scientifically interesting T. rex in history, and how he lost her. You need to know what Peter has been through to get to this point in his career and research.

This isn’t Larson’s first trip to Tampa to meet with TBFC. Nearly twenty years ago he visited us at FossilFest and gave a presentation on how some dinosaurs evolved into the birds we know today. It was cutting edge science back then and many professionals steered clear of the concept, not Peter. On this trip to Tampa Peter plans to speak about his newest research in the Hell Creek and Lance Formations.

I can’t tell you how pleased we are to have Peter Larson back for this very special meeting.

PLEASE BE AWARE - The March 4th meeting will be held in Cooper Hall, CPR103. You can “Google” a map of USF and find the closest parking to Cooper Hall if you’d like. But unless you have a walking issue, I would simply park where we have for years and make the few minute walk to Cooper Hall. We will have signs directing you from our routine parking lot to Cooper Hall. Come early for a good seat.

On a personal note, 2017 will mark my 16th season as the President of TBFC. It has been an honor and the experience of a lifetime. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and making lifelong friends with many of you over the years and have enjoyed hunting fossils with you from here to the Badlands of Nebraska. It’s given me the chance to meet some of my paleontological heroes, like Peter Larson, Larry Agenbroad, and the Florida famous Dr. S. David Webb (am I a fossil-nerd, or what?), and the opportunity to learn with you and make many wonderful discoveries. It’s been a pleasure my wife and I have shared and I’m proud of what TBFC and its members have come to represent in the field of paleontology.

Good Hunting,
Mike Searle
President, TBFC