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