Have you ever been interested in fossils? How about finding things you’ve never seen before?

 David K. Elliott is a paleontologist. (He is also a professor in the Geology Program at Northern Arizona University.) He first discovered that he wanted to study bones when he was 14 or 15. “My family took long walks outdoors. I lived in the south east of England. At the age of 10, a teacher brought rocks and minerals to class and I thought it was interesting,” says Elliott.

“I started looking into geology and with natural sciences, paleontology. When we moved to Bath, another town in England, they had lots of rocks like ammonites. I took Geology my last two years in school and got my doctorate in Paleontology at the University,” he says.

The types of fossils Elliot discovered were ammonites and shell fish in high school and vertebrae fossils at the university. “As a grad student it was fish fossils. I went camping in the Artic for a couple of summers. I continued when I came to the U.S., mostly western U.S., California and Nevada,” he says.

Other places Elliott has searched is Kohl’s Ranch in Payson, Ariz., Death Valley, Utah and Banff and Jasper in Alberta Canada. “It’s easy to find fossils at Kohl’s Ranch in Payson. You will also find shells and shark’s teeth,” he says.

Elliott’s greatest find was in the Canadian Artic. “It gave us a new idea about how things lived in another time. Boney Armor and jawless fish is what we found,” says Elliott.

Elliott says, “The material we get fossils from is very old. It is very hard rock. I use small hand drills, chipping the rock away. Chemically, fossil bones are resistant to acidic acid, vinegar. Lime stone is not resistant. You can soak the lime stone in vinegar and eventually you will just have your vertebrae."

Photo Credit: National Parks Service

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Karen Golden