For years, Joseph J. Kchodl of Midland has been bringing amateur geologists and paleontologists to the Alpena area to dig for fossils.
"I've been coming up there since 1993. It's such a good area because the Ice Age scraped away layers of dirt and leaves so that the fossils are easily exposed," said Kchodl, who calls himself PaleoJoe, a self-created persona for which he dresses and plays the part of a paleontologist on a fossil dig.
PaleoJoe plans to transport at least one bus load of teachers from the downstate area to Alpena on Oct. 4 for a professional development day. Sponsored by the Bay City Historical Museum, the outing will include four different stops at local quarries and areas known for fossil materials.
"The Alpena area is very, very fossil rich," he said. "You can search in some areas there where the fossils are on the surface. There's no digging involved. Basically, you just bend over and pick them up, it's that rich of an area."
His excursion will start at the ditch along Burkholder Road, off Long Rapids Road. He considers the site one of those fossil-rich places where the fossils are plentiful and ripe for the picking.
The overall idea, PaleoJoe said, is to allow the visiting teachers to experience a real dig and find specimens of the kinds of fossils they teach their students about in the classroom.
"They will stay the whole day," PaleoJoe said. "They will actually be in a setting and collecting what they read about in books. I want them to see how rich and important the Alpena area is when it comes to fossils."
Besides Burkholder Drive, the excursion will include fossil digs at Rockport Quarry, Lafarge Quarry and Specification Stone Products Quarry. Each location, he said, offers different kinds of materials.
"The teachers will be able to find dozens of species of ancient marine life, the life that lived at the bottom of the warm salt water tropical seas that once covered Michigan," PaleoJoe said.
Among materials they are expected to find are brachiopods, commonly known as sea shells, and many different species of corals. Additionally, they should find bryozoans, commonly called moss animals, as well as crinoids, often called lilies of the seas.
"They also will be amazed at the amount of hexagonaria corals the unpolished form of our state stone, the Petoskey stone," he said.
PaleoJoe is opening the expedition up to other teachers as well. Anyone in the immediate area interested in participating may contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 989-430-3980. More information also is available at his website, www.paleojoe.com.
In addition to the professional development day for teachers, PaleoJoe will be at the Besser Museum for Northeast Michigan on Oct. 6 for the annual Fall Harvest Day celebration. This year's event is free and will have a Fall Harvest Fossil Fest theme, with PaleoJoe giving a fossil presentation along with bus tours to local quarries, rock and mineral vendors, and many other activities.