Fossils are the only physical evidence available to scientists today that can record the details of life from Earth’s distant past. Fossils can remain safely entombed for millions of years within the rocks, but once they become visibly ‘exposed’ they begin to deteriorate. When people discover freshly-exposed fossils they can help to preserve this record of the past in several ways.

The first priority is to ensure that no additional damage can occur to the specimen. On a shoreline such as Blue Beach, the ocean is actively eroding the rocks and fossils, so the number one priority is to remove the fossils from that environment, which means they must be collected. Before they can be studied or appreciated, they need collectors to rescue them.

The bedrock and loose rock are continually exposed to further weathering and erosion. This mudcracked-bed, and others, are eventually washed away, so important fossils need to be collected as soon as they appear.

Important details regarding when and where exactly the fossil was collected from need to be recorded, and the specimens need careful wrapping and transport. Once collected, the fossils need to be properly housed in a permanent ‘repository’ where their future well being and storage are assured for all time. In other words, private fossil collections don’t actually contribute to preserving the past. Only those fossils that make their way into a museum or some other kind of official repository can be considered part of our official Fossil Record.

Not every fossil is needed in these scientific studies. Many common fossil varieties are often abundant to the point where additional examples tell us nothing more. Although important fossil finds are far less common, a surprising number can be found by the average fossil collector with little or no specialized knowledge.

This is why scientists encourage the public bring in their finds for an expert opinion. If we can recover the few that matter most, we can make meaningful contributions to the preservation of our past.