Quest for The NH State Fossil Revisited

I was surprised to receive an email today with the subject heading of “Mastodon!” It was from the Concord Monitor’s reporter, David Brooks. David Brooks is also known as the “Granite Geek.” He interviewed me around five years ago for his column, and his story was also discussed on NHPR. He wrote a new article today.

Illustration by Tobin Smith

Anyway, Mr. Brooks contacted me because there are some new developments of prehistoric preportions going on currently…but in Massachusetts, not New Hampshire. A state representative from Massachusetts is currently lobbying for an official state dinosaur, in part to encourage kids to learn about the legislative process. I was asked if there had been any movement on the quest my students from several years ago undertook, along with State Representatives David Borden and Tom Sherman, and paleontologists Will Clyde and Gary Johnson.

Unfortunately my answer was “no,” however I still have hope. Perhaps there are some more students out there, other educators, or representatives in our state that would like to take up our quest to make the mastodon our official state fossil? Despite the fact that we are the “granite state,” which means fossils are rare here, my former students and I felt that it was important for fellow New Hampshirites – young and old alike – to be aware of our state’s ancient past – both its creatures and geology. We felt an official state fossil would lend itself to further education on the subject. And yes, we were also discouraged that our neighbors had official state fossils, but alas, our cherished state did not.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 1200px-mastodon_skeleton_luoyang-1.jpg
Mastodon Skeleton

Whatever your stance, my former third grade students’ science quest was understandable, commendable, and not without thorough research (with the help of Will Clyde (UNH) and Gary Johnson (Dartmouth). If there is anyone out there that would like to rekindle this quest for an official state fossil, please let me know!

And last but not least, a few years ago author Yinan Wang contacted me to get the scoop on our quest. He was bummed to hear our bill not go through, but as you can see, he was supportive of us in his book, “The 50 State Fossils: A Guidebook for Aspiring Paleontologists,”:

Excerpt from “50 State Fossils: A Guidebook for Aspiring Paleontologists”

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