Feds dig up $2 million to support networking needs of amateur fossil fans

Fossil lovers now have one more way to link up and talk about dinosaurs thanks to a mammoth-sized federal grant.

Critics call it more buried treasure.

The University of Florida broke ground earlier this year on a taxpayer-supported initiative purporting to connect amateur fossil enthusiasts across the country with each other and professional aficionados through a new online communication network.

The cost: $2 million.

The plan is a mouthful, called Fostering Opportunities for Synergistic STEM in Informal Learners, or FOSSIL, (STEM is an acronym for Science Technology Engineering and Math).

Simply put, it consists of a user-friendly website, social media outreach and event get-togethers. The website — the networking hub — hosts mainly contact lists, event information and a newsletter.

Funding recipients call it a game-changer.

“I had this idea of a web-based education community that connects people with a shared interested in paleontology,” Bruce MacFadden, vertebrate paleontology curator at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus, said in February when the public funding was announced.

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