Digging for treasures
Although we believed in the hands-on approach where everybody was given the opportunity to uncover their own unique specimens, we also had a responsibility to science. We were in an unique situation at McAbee. There are literally thousands of fossils to be found at the site, and the vast majority of them have not been documented and studied. There is always the possiblity of something new being uncovered. It can either be new to the site, or new to science in general. We had a responsibility to make sure that these new specimens got into the scientists' hands.
It was our track record of ensuring all new specimens are seen by the paleontologists that allowed us to continue to offer this experience to a general audience. Both claim owners have handed over countless specimens to science. In return, both have had fossils named in recognition of their contributions, and several have been named after the site itself. We continued to hand over more than 50 specimens a year to science. At present, there are well over 150 specimens still with the scientists. However, private interest groups have used the court of public opinion to force the government's hand and removing the site from us because we were not experts.
So now we are closed. Everything else on this page is probably redundant now.
First you need to understand that unique specimens are worth more to science than any one individual. Should you uncover an unique specimen, we need to take it from you along with your contact information. At the end of our season, we donate the unique specimens to Thompson Rivers University on the finders behalf. Should your specimen turn out to be new to science, there is a chance it could be named after you. If it is not new to science, but a museum quality specimen that goes on display somewhere, your name is always associated with it as the finder. There is also the possiblity of receiving a tax credit for making a scientific donation.
At present our list of significant specimens includes, but is not limited to: Birds, Mammals, Reptiles, Amphibians, Crayfish, spiders, and large insects. To date no mammals (bats, mice, moles etc.), reptiles (snakes), amphibians (salamanders, newts, frogs) have ever been found at the site. These specimens have been found at other Eocence sites similar to ours, so it is a matter of time before at least one of these is found. There have been 3 birds found to date. The most complete identifiable specimen resides in the Kelowna Museum. The other two are at Thompson Rivers University. However, neither were well enough preserved to make species identification possible. Thompson Rivers also houses 8 crayfish at present. It is our hope that if we can find enough (15 to 20), we can attract the attention of a scientist to study them.* And, among the insects, we have never found any butterflies, moths, or dragonflies. Again, we feel it is only a matter of time. And current research is on-going on sawflies, scorpionflies, lacewings, cicadas, and cochroaches. We are also on the lookout for grasshoppers and large beetles. Only one stag beetle and 3 grasshoppers have been found so far, although a few separated wings have been found.
The chance of finding something significant is very small. However, there is always that chance. One can not tell what is hiding within the layers of any given plate. It depends on the piece you pick-up, where you hit to split it open, how the piece opens up, and then, what your eye sees. Most people do not see what we can see. Many people simply overlook the small insects, not because they are not interested, but simply because they do not see them; especially when there are lots of other fossils on the same piece.
We take our scientific responsibility very seriously. For us to continue to offer this unique opportunity, we require your assistance. Plans are under way to have a professional paleontologist on the hill during the summer months. Should we get the details worked out in time, this person will be responsible for overseeing what everyone collects. He or she will ultimately determine the significance of particular specimens. If you are lucky enough to find something unique, you could find yourself named in a scientific paper and be part of the great paleontological heritage of McAbee and this province.
*May 2011 Update: The paper about our crayfish has been released: NEW EOCENE CRAYFISH FROM THE MCABEE BEDS IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: FIRST RECORD OF PARASTACOIDEA IN THE NORTHERN HEMISPHERE by
Rodney M. Feldmann, Carrie E. Schweitzer, and John Leahy
in the Journal of Crustacean Biology.
This is the first time this family of crayfish has been found in the northern hemisphere, let alone North America. This is very significant.
The McAbee Fossil Beds
Cache Creek, BC
Phone: (250) 374-6540
Design and Layout: John Leahy-250-374-6540
Website last updated: February 2012