IRSC Students 'Dig in' to Identify and Categorize Walton Rocks Fossil Collection - Indian River State College
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IRSC Students 'Dig in' to Identify and Categorize Walton Rocks Fossil Collection

IRSC Students 'Dig in' to Identify and Categorize Walton Rocks Fossil Collection

July 21, 2021 Robert Lane

A select group of Indian River State College (IRSC) Biology students led by Dr. Robert Lowery, Associate Professor, Biological Sciences, are digging into paleontology research with their work to categorize a private collection of more than 1,200 fossils found along the shores of Walton Rocks Beach in St. Lucie County.

Shemika Lambert, Peter Berel, Amber Lingaitis and Dr. Lowery are working to categorize over 1200 fossils in the IRSC Archeology and Paleosciences Laboratory.

Shemika Lambert, Peter Berel, Amber Lingaitis and Dr. Lowery are working to categorize over 1200 fossils in the IRSC Archeology and Paleosciences Laboratory.


During their walks along the scenic beach, Gary and Theresa Hauan, who spend their winters in Port St. Lucie, gathered what may appear to look like rocks, but are fossils that could date to 12,000 years or older. The couple is licensed to collect fossils by the State of Florida through the Florida Museum of Natural History and graciously chose to loan their collection to the College—providing IRSC students an extraordinary research opportunity to learn from their unique collection.

“This is a great opportunity for our students to get hands-on experience identifying fossils and to learn about the tremendous changes that have occurred in Florida since the last Ice Age,” shares Dr. Lowery. “This kind of work incorporates comparative anatomy, chemistry, teamwork, and lots of critical thinking. Add 3-D digital technology, with which they are working, and this is a comprehensive research experience.”

IRSC student Amber Lingaitis (left) uses a 3D scanning app to capture the 3D structure of a fossilized bone.

IRSC student Amber Lingaitis (left) uses a 3D scanning app to capture the 3D structure of a fossilized bone.


Dr. Lowery and the students are working meticulously to sort and 3D scan the fossil collection by using various phone applications, and in conjunction with this effort, they are building a fossil collection by 3-D printing fossils. They hope to acquire either an EinScan or Artec 3-D scanner to improve their results.

While some fossils are more readily identifiable—like the prehistoric horse teeth that sit atop a 10-inch piece of horse skull—many prove more challenging. Those that are less distinct are categorized along gradient by color and then sub-categorized by surface features.

Examples of prehistoric horse teeth sit atop a 10-inch piece of horse skull with one tooth protruding in the center from the skull itself.

Examples of prehistoric horse teeth sit atop a 10-inch piece of horse skull with one tooth protruding in the center from the skull itself.


Since many of these found fossils are smaller and worn by erosion, the team is working with representatives of the Florida Paleontological Society, including David Celli of Titusville and others, to assist with fossil identification. Additionally, the use of literature resources and some crowdsourcing to enlist the resources of a larger number of people has helped to prevent errors with identification. 

Once completed with their work, the team plans to publish their results to report them to Mr. and Mrs. Huaun who will deliver the IRSC Lab’s interpretation to the University of Florida Museum of Natural History.

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