Free App for Amateurs to Find and ID Fossils

October 28, 2015
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A free app for iPhone or iPad users is now allowing them to discover and classify fossils for later use of scientists. Called the Digital Atlas of Ancient Life, the app is available for free on iTunes.

The app links to pictures, maps, and information about how long ago fossils occurred. When people are out finding fossils, they are not on their computer. They might be out walking, picking up a fossil, and thinking, this is so cool. But most amateurs are not sure about the species. They are always asking, where have like this one been found? This app links to pictures, maps, and information about how long ago fossils occurred.

“We know people are captivated by paleontology and interested in fossils”, says principal investigator Bruce Lieberman, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Kansas. “It’s a way for anyone to find species in the field and learn something about them, be they farmers, amateur paleontologists, teachers of earth sciences, or biologists”, he adds.

Some professional paleontologists can certainly use the find later.

The Digital Atlas of Ancient Life will help in another way. Let’s suppose there are scientists in Russia, who wants to see fossils in US cabinets, but don’t have the airfare or cannot travel to Kansas. Or there might be a rancher in Dodge City with a fossil, but the person cannot drive to Lawrence to see the collection. This app will provide the data and allow them to dig outside in the natural environment in Kansas or anywhere, then instantly access pictures and explanations of what fossils they have found and what they are related to.

Lieberman says his team had elementary, middle school, and high school teachers in mind when they developed this new app. He hopes to give instructors a practical tool for engaging students with the wonders of the natural world.

The Digital Atlas of Ancient Life app focuses on fossils with origins in the Pennsylvanian period, about 290 million years ago.

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