When you have a science question, what do you do?
If you’re like us, you Google it or search in a book. After all, you can’t just walk up to a scientific expert and seek their knowledge whenever you want.
Unless you happen to be at UT Identification Day, that is. The open house event drew about 500 people to the Texas Natural Science Center on Sunday afternoon. Naturalists, paleontologists, and archeologists were all on hand to identify fossils, bones, rocks, arrowheads, and other natural specimens.
“It’s the science version of Antiques Roadshow,” says Pamela Owen, senior paleontology educator at the center. Owen has been running the event since 2007, and the findings she sees surprise her every time.
“We had someone bring in a black bear skull,” Owen recalls. “That’s really unusual, because black bears haven’t lived in Central Texas since about the 1950s. We also see mammoth fossils, mastodon fossils, and Ice Age horse remains.”
Visitors arrive at the museum with boxes and bags of fossils and rocks—often long-neglected items rescued from a dusty closet or garage.
One Austinite, Owen remembers, showed up with a pile of hippo teeth from Africa: “This person had a relative who had explored the Congo years and years ago. I don’t get to see hippo teeth every day, so I was really excited. There’s nothing else quite like Identification Day.”
The next Identification Day will take place in late August.
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Photos by Jeff Heimsath