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Stetson’s Gillespie Museum Presents Science Café on Florida Fossils Feb. 27

Dr. Sam Upchurch holds up piece of agatized coral to show school kids
Sam Upchurch, PhD, discusses agatized coral with Cypress Creek Elementary School students on Oct. 8, 2019.

Fossils are a window to Florida’s natural past and provide geologists with invaluable information about Florida’s geologic history. The development and distribution of silicified fossils and what these hidden gems reveal is the topic of a Science Café “Florida’s Own Gems, Agatized Fossil Corals” on Thursday, Feb. 27, 7-8:30 p.m., at Gillespie Museum on Stetson University’s campus.

Gary Maddox

The Gillespie Museum’s mineral exhibition “Agatized Coral and Other Silicified Fossils of Florida” features 140 fossil specimens, including agatized coral and silicate fossils from the personal collections of Florida geologists Sam Upchurch, PhD, professor emeritus of geology and former Geology Department chair at the University of South Florida, and Gary Maddox, a state hydrogeologist and co-owner of Apalachee Minerals.

In addition to conducting the Science Café, the two geologists are finalizing a manuscript about these fossil topics.

Agatized coral is a silicified fossil that formed when silica in the ocean water replaced buried, ancient corals. The Florida legislature designated agatized coral as the state stone in 1979, which is the only gemstone found on the Florida peninsula.

three pieces of agatized coral
The “Agatized Coral and Other Silicified Fossils of Florida” exhibit features 140 fossil specimens.

The specimens in the agatized coral exhibit represent archaic organisms that lived 20 to 30 million years ago in shallow seas that covered the Florida Platform, an underwater plateau, during the Oligocene and early Miocene epochs. Agatized coral has been found in a few areas of Florida and southern Georgia, including Econfina (Taylor County) and Withlacoochee Rivers near the Florida and Georgia state line; Ballast Point (Hillsborough County); and Nutall Rise in the Aucilla River (Jefferson County).

The Gillespie Museum’s Science Café series provides the community with free monthly opportunities to learn about current scientific research by Stetson University faculty and visiting scholars. Guests can view the agatized coral exhibit through Wednesday, May 6.

Dustin Angell

Another exhibit, “Florida Stewards,” on display through Friday, March 13, features conservation photographs by the Archbold Biological Station’s environmental educator and conservation photographer Dustin Angell.

The Gillespie Museum is located at 234 E. Michigan Ave. in DeLand. For more information, call 386.822.7330 or visit www.stetson.edu/gillespie.

-Sandra Carr