On January 28th, the Making Waves Teen Science Café invited Dr. Louis Jacobs, Professor Emeritus at Southern Methodist University, to teach us about the life of the past. Dr. Jacobs is a paleontologist and for most of his life he has been piecing together the great, big puzzle that is life itself!
He shared about his time in Angola, on Africa’s coast, where you can find loads of fossils piled on each other. All you have to do is lightly brush dirt away with an old paint brush and there’s a good chance you’ll find a fossil. He was part of an operation that excavated fossils from Angola to SMU, in Dallas, where over a hundred students helped piece those fossils together.
Through fossils, you can surmise what the life of the past was like. You can figure out diets of certain species that went extinct. With a little imagination, you can even tell stories through fossils of chases between predators and prey. Dr. Jacobs has had the pleasure of expanding his imagination in various ways to tell stories of various beauties and tragedies of once living organisms. I was absolutely fascinated with the stories he shared and I believe everyone else in the room was too. But, no matter what you find, every story your imagination can contrive is a hypothesis because in reality you can never truly know what happened at the time, as was explained by Dr. Jacobs.
Hands on Activity
At the beginning of the night, we rinsed and sieved sandstone that Dr. Jacobs brought from Angola that contained clumps of fossilized teeth. At the end of the night, when the fossils were relatively dry, we all sifted through them and found fossil teeth so small that if you didn’t know what you were looking for, you could miss them entirely. We found clumps of fossilized teeth in the sandstone, a barracuda jaw bone, a mosasaur tooth, and fossil shark teeth! It was a lot of fun. For a moment we got to see what it was like to be a paleontologist.