Fos­sil facts

Fos­sils from the Keeper of the Cliffs be­ing sent to schools across Nova Sco­tia

The Amherst News - - FRONT PAGE - BY DAR­RELL COLE dar­[email protected]­st­ Twit­ter: @ADN­dar­rell

Keeper of the Cliffs’ fos­sils be­ing shown to stu­dents near and far.

For many years, Don Reid wan­dered the beaches at Joggins pick­ing up fos­sils and adding them to his col­lec­tion. Now Nova Sco­tia stu­dents are go­ing to learn about his legacy and the fos­sils he gath­ered.

Much of his col­lec­tion is show­cased at the Joggins Fos­sil Cen­tre that cel­e­brates the UNESCO des­ig­na­tion of the fos­sil cliffs. The prob­lem is, Reid’s col­lec­tion is so big not all of it could ever be dis­played.

Upon his death in 2016, his fam­ily be­gan look­ing for some­thing to do with the fos­sils left at his Joggins home.

En­ter John Calder, a se­nior ge­ol­o­gist with En­ergy and Mines Nova Sco­tia, and long­time friend of Reid’s. It was Calder who gave Reid the name the Keeper of the Cliffs.

“Af­ter Don passed away his fam­ily was sort­ing through his be­long­ings and they con­tacted me and told me their fa­ther had all these fos­sils that he’d of­ten bring out and look at with his mi­cro­scope. If he saw any­thing in­ter­est­ing he’d usu­ally con­tact me,” Calder said. “This was be­fore the fos­sil cen­tre was built. He had a mas­sive col­lec­tion and there was never enough room to show ev­ery­thing.”

Reid put rep­re­sen­ta­tive fos­sils in his first cen­tre on Main Street and when the new cen­tre at the bot­tom of Main Street opened 10 years ago there wasn’t enough room to store them so they re­mained at his home.

With Reid’s house sold, a new home had to be found for the fos­sils. There was no room at the Joggins Fos­sil In­sti­tute, the Nova Sco­tia Mu­seum or the Fundy Ge­o­log­i­cal Mu­seum so Reid ap­proached the At­lantic Geo­science So­ci­ety.

“Many of these fos­sils were col­lected years ago, long be­fore the Spe­cial Places Act, and there was no spe­cific des­ig­na­tion of where they were found – things that sci­en­tists want to know,” Calder said. “We were faced with a co­nun­drum of what to do with them. Do we put them back on the beach, bull­doze them over? Fact is, the house was sold and we had to get them out of there.”

Calder spoke with the so­ci­ety’s ed­u­ca­tion com­mit­tee and floated the idea of pro­vid­ing the fos­sils to schools across the prov­ince. The so­ci­ety sup­ported the project by buy­ing the bins for the fos­sils while the Bed­ford In­sti­tute of Oceanog­ra­phy agreed to store them un­til the kits could be put to­gether to be pre­sented to the schools.

Af­ter be­ing stored in Bed­ford for close to a year, the geo­science so­ci­ety’s ed­u­ca­tion com­mit­tee de­cided to put the kits to­gether that were dis­trib­uted on the week­end of Oct. 26’s At­lantic sci­ence teach­ers con­fer­ence at the Hal­i­fax West High School.

“A call went out to sci­ence teach­ers across Nova Sco­tia to de­ter­mine the level of in­ter­est in re­ceiv­ing the kits and 88 schools from Yar­mouth to Cape Bre­ton re­sponded favourably,” Calder said. “It’s a post­hu­mous gift from Don Reid to the schools across the prov­ince.”

The kits in­clude in­for­ma­tion on Reid, a copy of Calder’s book about the Joggins Fos­sil Cliffs as well as fos­sil spec­i­mens. He said telling young peo­ple about Reid’s pas­sion will help carry his legacy for­ward and he’s hop­ing it will en­tice stu­dents to visit Joggins and even con­sider ca­reers in ge­ol­ogy, pa­le­on­tol­ogy and other sciences.

The kits also in­clude in­for­ma­tion on the Spe­cial Places Act and the UNESCO des­ig­na­tion of the Joggins Fos­sil Cliffs.

“I’m re­ally ex­cited about this and I know Don Reid will be look­ing down smil­ing at what’s be­ing done with these fos­sils,” Calder said.


Vol­un­teers put to­gether kits go­ing out to 100 schools across Nova Sco­tia. The kits in­clude fos­sils col­lected by Don Reid, the Keeper of the Cliffs, an Or­der of Nova Sco­tia mem­ber who passed away in 2016.

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