Thursday, October 19, 2017


APS Monograph No. 2

Pennsylvanian Footprints in the Black Warrior Basin of Alabama.
Vol. 2: The Ichnology of Multiple Walker County Tracksites


In 2005, the Alabama Paleontological Society (APS) published a comprehensive monograph on the trace and body fossils of the world’s most prolific Carboniferous (Coal Age) tracksite, the Union Chapel Mine (now the Steven C. Minkin Paleozoic Footprint site) located in north-central Alabama. More than 2500 specimens of trackways have been collected from this site, a discontinued surface coal mine in Walker County.

APS Monograph No. 1, Pennsylvanian Footprints in the Black Warrior Basin of Alabama, known informally as the “Blue Book,” was a citizen scientist-professional collaboration that stood as the first major attempt to research Coal Age vertebrate trackways in Alabama since Museum Paper No. 9, Footprints from the Coal Measures of Alabama, published in 1930 by the Alabama Museum of Natural History and written by Truman H. Aldrich, Sr. and Walter B. Jones. The entire Blue Book can be accessed online at

Although the Blue Book is still of great value, it was not long before its interpretations needed to be revised and updated. For example, the taxonomy and attribution of vertebrate trackways is still in flux, while some “horseshoe crab” trackways are now thought to have been made by wingless monuran insects. Other traces in the Blue Book are still being debated and likely need further work. But in addition, many more specimens have been collected from Walker County since 2005 that have not yet been examined by any professional ichnologist. An example is the large database of new material from the Crescent Valley Mine near Carbon Hill, 23 miles west and a little north of the Minkin Site. Other sites include the Sugartown and Fern Springs Road mines, which have been visited many times by APS members.

We are calling for papers to be part of a second monograph prepared under the auspices of the APS to accomplish the following:

  • illustrate new and interesting specimens collected from multiple tracksites since 2005
  • arrange for thorough expert examination of the new vertebrate and invertebrate trace fossil specimens, treating both kinds as having the same level of scientific value
  • revise the interpretations in the Blue Book accordingly
  • cover all the known tracksites in Alabama
  • include analysis and illustration of important specimens of plant fossils found at
    these same sites
  • provide a global view of life during the coal age in Alabama, with the idea of connecting the Alabama tracks to other sites in the US and Canada
  • provide a venue for several new studies of UCM and CVM material that are already underway or planned


Dr. Ronald J. Buta, Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa,

Dr. David C. Kopaska-Merkel, Geological Survey of Alabama, Tuscaloosa,

Dr. Andrew K. Rindsberg, University of West Alabama, Livingston,

We encourage scientists with a strong interest and experience in Carboniferous trace fossils to contribute papers to this volume. A significant number of Walker County trace fossils collected by local amateurs and citizen scientists are housed in museums in Alabama, including the Alabama Museum of Natural History, the McWane Science Center, and the Anniston Museum of Natural History. The database has continued to expand since the first “Track Meet” (gathering of collectors to document and often donate their specimens) held nearly 17 years ago at the Alabama Museum of Natural History. The story behind the discovery and re-discovery of vertebrate trace fossils in Alabama is told in “Footprints in Stone: Fossil Traces of Coal-Age Tetrapods,” by Ronald J. Buta and David C. Kopaska-Merkel, published in mid-2016 by the University of Alabama Press. The book is available through both and the UA Press.


If you are interested in contributing a paper to the proposed volume, please send the editors a letter of intent indicating the topic you would like to focus on. This letter should be submitted by January 1, 2018.

If accepted by the editors as a possible paper for the volume, the formal deadline for submitting the completed manuscript is January 1, 2019. All papers should be submitted in Microsoft Word with illustrations in separate jpeg or tiff format. Line graphs should have a resolution of at least 300 dpi. Halftones should be well-focused and sharp.


Speaking Evolution

This brand-new show on Alabama Public Television (made by the Alabama Museum of Natural History) asks the question why do the products of natural selection look so much like design? Debbie Elliott narrates and many of the world's experts discuss various aspects of this question. Fantastic footage shot all over the state of Alabama demonstrates just how diverse and beautiful Alabama's wildlife is, while illustrating the narrative.

I have seen the show and it is incredibly good. I expected cogent arguments, good explanations, and beautiful footage, but all of these expectations were greatly exceeded by the show.

Disclaimer: I had a very small part to play in the making of this show.


you will be glad to know

the bad-joke calendar
a good gift for me
the jokes are so bad
even I don't think they're funny
some are the one about…
some are puns that just punish
some depend on relationships that don't exist
one in 10 brings a chuckle
one in 50 makes other people laugh
7/365 ain't bad!

Common decency
not the fear of legal action
prevents me from reproducing
even the best of them here


Not Getting Old; Always Was Like This

what I need to do
in my office
is not even "what did I forget?"
at the end of the hall
I'm on to something else
no blank slate here
but chores forgotten
again and again

Wednesday, October 18, 2017


So the fossil field workshop for teachers yesterday went really well. The weather was perfect. One of the teachers found a turtle femur. A fossil femur 82.5 million years old. People found fossils of sharks, fish, mosasaurs, oysters, ammonites, shrimp burrows, teredo worms (actually a kind of wood-boring clam),and lots more things. Wish you had gone? Just send me your email address and tell me why you're sending that and I will put you on the list to be reminded next year.


the love song of rabbits
where fur meets fang
and the green slit-pupil eye
the old man has still got it
though white hairs freckle sable
and he pauses
before a high jump


so the student passed his defense. Everyone is happy. Tomorrow when he realizes he has nine days to make more than 500 corrections to his dissertation he may not be quite so happy.

On my way back over here I thought of two very funny jokes to inflict on you all.

Funny with the ha ha
that's what it was
I had no way to make a note
the greatest joke ever
but now it's gone
I just have to hope
it wasn't as funny
as the way I remember it