The Word From Above

Blue Beach Receives Praise in Scientific Forums....


January, 19th 2007

To Whom It May Concern:
I am writing today in recognition of Blue Beach (also known as Hortons Bluff), Nova Scotia, as one of the most important fossil localities in North America. As such, the conservation of its fossils, both found and waiting to be collected, is tantamount to ensure our better understanding of the animals that passed over the fish-tetrapod boundary.

While dramatic, fully articulated skeletons haven’t (yet) been found, the vertebrate fossils of Blue Beach tell and interesting story. They represent the oldest fossils within the mysterious gap in the fossil record known as “Romer’s Gap”. Our emerging picture of the fauna from Blue Beach is one of transition; a Devonian-like form is present with classic Mississippian embolomeres, colosteids, and whatcheeriids. In no other place in the world can such fossils, of such an age, be found, making them of critical international scientific importance.

Past collecting efforts, dating back to the days of Sir Charles Lyell, the father of modern geology, and Sir William Dawson, eminent Canadian paleontologist from McGill, have been intermittent and short in duration. Even more recent collecting efforts, including those by Dr. Don Baird (then of Princeton), Dr. Robert Carroll (McGill), and in recent years by myself, only visit the site for a week or two every other year, and sometimes several years can pass between visits. However, the geologic processes at work on Blue Beach, with the cliffs being eroded twice daily by the highest tides in the world, mean that new fossils potentially appear daily, and are rapidly destroyed when exposed. During such collecting trips members of field parties would wax about how great it would be to live on the site and be able to collect every day, as the tide receeded. Little did we realize that our hopes would be met by Chris Mansky and Sonja Wood.

The intensive collecting efforts undertaken over the past decade by the Blue Beach Fossil Museum (BBFM), has been instrumental in our new understanding of the importance of this locality. Through concerted, daily, collecting literally tons of new material has been saved from the tides. Some of this material includes what for Blue Beach is a “holy grail”: articulated elements. The footprints in particular point at a faunal richness and diversity the fossils, biased by depositional processes to larger elements, only hint. Just as importantly, the BBFM has served as a magnet to local amateur collectors, whom have worked with the staff of the BBFM in furthering collecting and preparation efforts, and have even donated their personal collections for curation and display. This outreach effort is critical for a locality as difficult to work in traditional methods; many hands make work light, as the saying goes.

Finally, the BBFM provides a unique venue for science education. Didactic displays in the museum, and personal tours of the fossil areas on the beach provide information about stories in paleontology that often go unheard among the giant, cinematographic dinosaur specials on television. At the BBFM folks learn about the diversity of archaic fishes that ultimately resulted in you and I, for my money one of the most exciting stories evolution has to tell.

In summary, I believe that Blue Beach is critically important to our understanding of early tetrapod evolution. The work being done by the BBFM is a vital part of my ongoing research in Nova Scotia. The education and outreach I have witnessed during my visits has been extraordinary given the infrastructure in place, and I strongly encourage any efforts that can be made to support the expansion of the role the BBFM plays in its community along the Avon River, and to the international scientific community.

Dr. Jason S. Anderson

Associate Professor
College of Veterinary Medicine,
University of Calgary
Alberta, Canada

Acadia University
Wolfville, Nova Scotia
Canada B4P-2R6
Telephone: (902) 585-1229
Facsimile: (902) 585-1071

June 12, 2007
To whom it may concern:

I am writing this letter to support the development of the Blue Beach Fossil Museum (BBFM) initiative. In the past three years I have used the existing BBFM and the interpretive services of Chris Mansky and Sonja Wood as an integral component of the science education courses I teach in the School of Education at Acadia University. The quality of this learning experience as well as the enthusiasm student teachers gain for the fields of paleontology and geology are in my experience unprecedented. The important attributes of the physical site as one of the most important fossil sites in the world combined with the interpretive and public education expertise of Chris and Sonja are reasons why this experience has often been cited by the teachers as one of the main highlights in their teacher training if not their academic career. In a time when ‘junk’ science in the form of so-called ‘intelligent design’ is on the ascendant in some regions, the early Carboniferous fossils of Blue Beach provide one of the most outstanding opportunities for contributing to evolutionary science education in Canada. I believe that in supporting this initiative we will help build a lasting and significant educational and cultural resource for all Canadians.

Leo Elshof, PhD.

Science and Technology Education
Acadia University School of Education
Wolfville, Nova Scotia Canada

To whom it may concern

I am writing in support of the application by Sonja Wood, Director of the Blue Beach Fossil Museum and Research Centre, to have the Blue Beach property rezoned in order to allow a consortium of interested parties to establish a large modern museum on part of the land.

I visited the existing Blue Beach Museum in 2005 and congratulate Sonja and Chris on their excellent displays, and especially on the collection of fossils from Blue Beach , which is known throughout the palaeontological community as the Horton Bluff locality. This locality is especially important on a world scale as it preserves remains of tetrapods from a period in earth’s history in which only four tetrapod localities are known. The period has such significance that it was named “Romer’s Gap”, after Professor A. S. Romer of Harvard university who spent much of his academic life searching for just such a collection of fossils as have been found at Blue Beach. Romer’s Gap is important as it is in this 25 million year time period that tetrapods first invaded the land, and also the time in which the two great living groups of tetrapods, the Amphibia and Amniota, originated.

Yet despite the diversity of life represented in the Blue Beach collections (detailed in the letter from my graduate student, Katherine Parker), the tetrapod fossils are relatively rare. Only by the efforts of Sonja and Chris, and collectors such as Bob Godfrey, who visit the sites daily to search for more remains exposed by each tide, are these collections able to be amassed. The position of the Blue Beach Museum on land adjacent to the beach is vital in this regard. A new purpose built Blue Beach Museum at this site should incorporate preparation rooms and equipment that will enable fossils to be prepared, conserved and catalogued as soon as they are collected, and rooms for visiting researchers to study the collection, as well as displays of fossils to generate revenue from the visiting public.

This new museum should complement the recently established museum associated with the Joggins locality, and others such as the museums at Miguasha and the Nova Scotia Museum in Halifax, forming a chain of fossil centres across Canada. It would be enhanced by the recognition of Blue Beach as a Geosite and its designation as a Special Place, both potentially boosting international and local tourism. I would also strongly support its designation as a World Heritage Site.

Dr. Anne Warren
Associate professor
Department of Zoology
La Trobe University
Victoria 3086

Some Important Quotes about the New Museum Project at
Blue Beach

“I have been consulted by the group that have submitted the proposal for Joggins to be accepted as a World Heritage site, and specifically argued that Blue Beach should be considered as an equally important locality for our understanding of the early history of land vertebrates.

From these few miles of sea cliff and beach have come a host of fossils providing the only evidence, anywhere in the world, that provides a link between the very archaic amphibians of the Upper Devonian and the subsequent radiation of all later land vertebrates.

Together with the Parrsboro locality, these sites provide a spectrum across the geological time scale that has no equal anywhere else in the world.”

Dr. Robert L. Carroll, FRSC, FLS, Former Chairman,
Dep’t of Biology and Curator, Redpath Museum,
McGill University, Montreal, Canada.

“Blue Beach preserves the oldest extensive assemblage of fossil footprints of early tetrapods on the planet. It thus provides a unique window into understanding the early colonization of land, a window that no other site provides.
Clearly, Blue Beach is a world class (and it is a world famous) fossil site. It is a national treasure that Canada and Nova Scotia are lucky to call their own. Indeed, its scientific import ranks it with the other great Canadian fossil sites, such as Joggins, Miguasha, Dinosaur Park and the Burgess Shale.

The Blue Beach fossil site should be preserved, protected, studied and interpreted for the betterment of all.”

Dr. Spencer G. Lucas, Ph.D., Director, New Mexico Museum of
Natural History and Science, Albuquerque, New Mexico.


“As the scientist who compiled the ‘comparative study’ central to the Joggins nomination, I am an expert on the Carboniferous ecosystems of the world. If Joggins is the finest example of a fossil site from the latter part of the Carboniferous period, then Blue Beach is certainly one of the most globally important Early Carboniferous localities. I urge you to support the development of Blue Beach Museum proposal.

Dr. Howard Falcon-Lang, Lecturer in Palaeontology,
Dep’t of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol, England.

“ I would like to add my support for the creation of a new museum at Blue Beach, Nova Scotia. As with some of the other proponents I would rank this site as or more important than the Joggins or Wasson Bluff since it marks a critical transition from sea to land and definitely shows that at least some of these early land animals came from the sea, not freshwater bodies.

The province has already invested very heavily in both Joggins and Wasson’s Bluff (Parrsboro), which are also extremely important sites. However, the Blue Beach site pre-dates those sites by several 10’s of millions of years, and is actually more important from a scientific and historic point of view.”

Dr. David Scott, President of Marine Geology Dep’t,
Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia

“I write in strong support for your government’s recognition of the Blue Beach Fossil Museum at Avonport, Nova Scotia, as a facility highly deserving…..

Given the success of famous fossil localities elsewhere in the Maritimes (e.g., Joggins and Parrsboro) [and for that matter, elsewhere in Canada], the Blue Beach fossil locality richly deserves similar respect and recognition, and officially sponsored moral and financial support.”

Dr. David Mossman, Professor of Geoscience, Emeritus,
Mount Allison University, Sackville, New Brunswick.

“I am writing in support of the Blue Beach Fossil Site, in order for it to be recognized as a World Class locality due to its unique and scientifically valuable fossil components, and to support the Sonja Wood and Chris Mansky of the Blue Beach Museum in their efforts to collect, exhibit, promote and educate the public on the Blue Beach site.

I believe the Blue Beach fossil site is the most significant Early Carboniferous vertebrate site of just the handful currently known.

I fully support the Blue Beach fossil site being recognized as one of global significance, and that promotional and educational facilities and infrastructure would be of enormous value to the local community, Canadians, and to the global scientific community.”

Dr. Katherine Parker (BSc Hons) PhD., Palaeontology
LaTrobe University, Melbourne, Australia.

Further Reading:
Saving Three Treasures


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