DALLAS PALEONTOLOGICAL SOCIETY by Roger Farish, Lee Higginbotham, Rocky Manning, Bob Williams



The Dallas Paleontological Society (aka Dallas Paleo, DPS) was founded in 1984 for “the purpose of promoting interest in and knowledge of the science of paleontology.” Our “Yoda” would be Charles “Chuck” Finsley, d. 2014, who was then Curator of Earth Sciences at the Dallas Museum of Natural History.  He gathered like-minded persons to retrieve fossils from the field and prep them for museum display.  The resulting mammoth and a turtle from this era are now on display at the new Perot Museum of Nature and Science.  As the mammoth project neared completion, talk turned to starting a formal paleontological society. They sought something more than a ‘club’ with its then perceived stigmas, so they formed the Dallas Paleontological Society. The Society’s mammoth skull logo comes from that project.  About 100 people attended the initial meeting and now we have over 300 dues paying memberships representing over 650 individuals.  When you walk through the Perot Museum’s T. Boone Pickens Life Then and Now Hall you will see a number of references to contributions by individuals of the Dallas Paleontological Society as well as references to the Society itself.

Our DPS traditionally meets monthly, on the second Wednesday of each month at 7:30pm at Brookhaven College’s Geotechnical Institute in northwest Dallas, Texas.  We will be holding virtual meetings on zoom until it is safe to meet in person again. Information for making the connection in in this website. Our meetings consist of some social time, which includes show and tell of new finds, announcements and then a speaker on some aspect of paleontology.   We attempt to make speakers aware of the wide experience, education and age variations within our group and request that they adjust their presentations accordingly.

The members of DPS contribute to our community in many ways.  Sometimes they respond to a particular request (we need a speaker for a 2nd grade class) while some others initiate projects on their own like providing displays for public entities (libraries, schools, parks, etc.) or volunteering for service at museums, excavations or events. DPS has members who take it upon themselves to make our community more knowledgeable whenever and wherever we can.  


Perhaps the most popular aspect of our Society is regular collecting or educational field trips. Most of Texas is paleontologically blessed. Our dominant Cretaceous fauna are flanked to the east and south by Cenozoic material with considerable Paleozoic exposures to the north and west. Although most trips are relatively local (with independent arrival at sites or car caravans to multiple sites), we have also participated in tours of institutions like UT Austin’s Vertebrate and Nonvertebrate Labs, the Houston Museum of Nature and Science’s Solenhofen Exhibition, the OU’s Sam Nobel Museum, etc. We have also sponsored chartered bus tours like our most recent ‘Ocean Dallas’ trip that was assembled and guided by a team under SMU’s Professor Emeritus of Earth Sciences, Dr. Louis Jacobs. Twenty field trips a year is not unusual. Occasional out of state field trips are organized and have recently been to Florida and Nebraska.

Workshops are held periodically to help educate members on methods for collecting, identifying, cataloging and preparing fossils. Sessions for basic geology and field techniques are also scheduled.

The Society’s Fossil Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is a team of volunteers assigned to investigate fossil finds reported to us by Society members or by the public and to ensure that significant discoveries get linked to the proper institutions. They are also available to excavate or assist local museums, universities and other organizations with excavations. Several mosasaurs, a plesiosaur, mammoths, fossil fish and other fossils have been excavated and donated over the years.  A major project ‘Mosie’, a mosasaur that was excavated from a local creek, prepared and was placed on permanent display at the Heard Natural Science Museum in 2014.

DPS, in an outreach to the public, has hosted the occasional Charles Finsley Lecture Series where specialists on cutting edge advances in paleontology are invited to speak.  Most recently Dr. Mary Schweitzer spoke in March of 2018 on the surprising results of her molecular studies on T. rex remains found in Montana. Previous lecturers in this series include: Dr. Nizar Ibrahim, Edwin Colbert, Dale Russell, Peter Dodson, Jack Horner, Keith Thomson, James Martin, Phil Currie, William DiMichele, Mike Everhart, Gary Haynes, and Johan Lindgren. Symposiums with area professionals on the state of North Texas paleontology have also been hosted.

As a 501(c)(3) organization we are able to raise sufficient funds through various activities to establish and maintain an endowment/scholarship fund.   To date, we have invested over $39,800 in the future of 57 future paleontologists via the Frank Crane Memorial Scholarship Award  that is given to graduate students who are nominated by their respective professors and then approved by our Executive Committee.  The graduate students  are obligated to return to the DPS and make a presentation on their work.

Our Society, in a partnership with the City of Mineral Wells, Texas developed a city-owned fossil park which contains abundant Pennsylvanian age fossils that are available for public collection.  The DPS approached the City about the idea, raised approx. $7000 (which the City matched) and helped promote the concept of the park. The grand opening in 2010 was attended by over 400 involved participants.  The Chamber of Commerce receives calls from all over the country asking about this trend-setting park. 

Dallas Paleo Society produces a monthly newsletter, The Fossil Record.  It contains items of paleo interest as well as member contributed articles and past and present activities of the Society.

The education level of each member is secondary to their focus and dedication to assembling their own personal collections but some have even advanced paleontological boundaries. To date, more than 40 past and present members have made significant enough discoveries that they have been published in various scientific journals.

On a secondary level, some members pursue research on their own, independent of formal institutions or guidance. For their efforts, the founding fathers instituted a set of Occasional Papers be periodically issued to contain the results of their work. We just recently released our 11th edition which is a revised edition of O.P. Volume 4. These are edited, but not peer reviewed publications.

The Society has spawned a sub-group called the Texas/Pennsylvanian Fossil Study Group. It is trying to answer some of the questions about this very diverse fauna and is assembling a comprehensive pictorial guide to help with identifying fossils from this sub-period, parts of which are currently available on the web site. They meet at U.T. Arlington hosted by the head of the geology department there, Dr. Merlynd Nestell with most of their work done by Dr. Ben Neuman, head of the Biology Department at Texas A&M Texarkana.

The Paleo Society has been an ongoing supporter of the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, Southern Methodist University’s Institute of Earth and Man, the Heard Museum, the Arlington Archosaur Site, Mineral Wells Fossil Park, town of Ladonia and other institutions.  Projects have included assistance with excavations, National Fossil Days, Discovery Days, The International Mosasaur Meeting, funding for lab equipment, GSA Southwest and other projects. We are usually in attendance at local gem and mineral shows, as well as STEM fairs and most recently at several National Fossil Day celebrations organized at multiple locations around this area.

As with most organizations, we have a very diverse membership from our PIT Crew to post retirement enthusiasts.  Most recently the former education chair recruited area teachers and created the PIT Crew (Paleontologists in Training) which reaches out to family members 7-15 years of age.  They organized the curriculum and coordinated the activities, field trips and lessons.   They meet at various locations around the DFW area for the convenience of all participants. Some of our high school members have been instructors on occasion.

Perceiving the depth of paleo knowledge within the ranks of our Society, member and then UNT professor Dr. George Maxey had a vision to harness these talents. He proposed the assembly of a book on ‘everything paleo’ for amateur paleontologists. It contains some history of paleo, how to collect, excavate, prep, photograph and display fossils, how to plan a field outing, significance of micro fossils, dealing with institutions, great finds of DPS members, local stratigraphy, ethics of collecting and suggestions on how to teach paleontology. The 356-page book became available in November of 2016.

‘Fossilmania’ is held annually in Glen Rose, Texas, home of Dinosaur Valley State Park.  It is a major fundraising event organized by the Society and has dealers, presentations, field trips, fossil swapping and an auction.

We have even published two fundraising calendars fashioned after the 2003 movie, 'Calendar Girls'. 

In 2015 we vastly improved our website, www.dallaspaleo.org with significant help from a new member.  The new website is a huge paleo resource both for our members and for our community.   Newcomers seeking information can easily obtain what they need, while the Members’-Only portal provides for direct interaction between members and proprietary Society information. Each member is responsible for updating their own profiles and can even post photos and other Society-relevant information.

We basically offer family, single and newsletter-only memberships and invite all who are interested in digging deeper into earth’s past to come join us. Please Visit our website www.dallaspaleo.org for more information.


                                            DPS MEMBER’S AWARD RECIPIENTS

                                                         PRESIDENT’S AWARD

DPS founder Ken Smith came up with the idea for an award to be given to a DPS member that is not part of the formal leadership. The recipient would be selected by the president. The first Presidential Award was presented to Sam Liberato in 1996 by Rocky Manning. This award is presented at our annual auction and holiday party in December.

YEAR            RECIPIENT

1996              Sam Liberato

1997

1998

1999             Fred Ransdell

2000             Mark McKinzie

2001

2002

2003            Gerald Bogan

2004

2005

2006            Rocky Manning

2007            Fred Ransdell

2008            Lee Higginbotham

2009            Wayne Furstenwerth

2010            Polly Mullinnex

2011            Ed Swiatovy

2012            Darlene Sumerfelt

2013           Joan and Richard Shepard

2014            Russell Sublette

2015            Rodney Wise

2016            Bob Williams

2017            Rachell Peterson

2018            Dan Eley

2019            Kim Pervis

2020            Kirsten Adams

2021            Fernando Correa-Corchado

(please help us fill in the blanks on this list)


                             WILLIAM LOWE LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD

This award was conceived to honor William Lowe, DPS founder, VP, President, and guiding force during the early years of the DPS. It was awarded in 1996 or 1997. The Lifetime Achievement Award became the William Lowe Lifetime Achievement Award in 2020.

Ken Smith

Bill Lowe 1996

Roger Farish 2000

Irene Stemple 2011

Mark McKinzie 2014

Tom Vance 2020

Darlene Sumerfelt 2021


                                                                 STRIMPLE AWARD

The Harrell L. Strimple Award, awarded since 1984 by the Paleontological Society, recognizes outstanding achievement in paleontology by amateurs (someone who does not make a living fulltime from paleontology). Contributions may be an outstanding record of research and publication, making outstanding collections, safeguarding unique paleontological materials through public service, teaching activities in the area of paleontology and collaborations with others working in paleontology.

                                                                 2020 Linda McCall


                                                   HONORARY MEMBERSHIP AWARD

                                                                 Thomas Vance

                                                                    Ken Barnes 

                                                                     Karen Carr 

                                                       Dr. Edwin Colbert (Deceased)

                                                                  Dr.Philip Currie

                                                           Joan Echols (Deceased)

                                                         Charles Finsley (Deceased)

                                                                   Dr. Tony Fiorillo

                                                                    John R. Horner

                                                                 Dr. Bonnie Jacobs

                                                                   Dr. Louis Jacobs

                                                                   Lee C. Mansfield

                                                                      Becky Mayad

                                                                  Dr. Merlynd Nestell

                                                                   Michael J. Polcyn

                                                                    Dr. Robert Purdy

                                                           Dr. Dale Russell (Deceased)

                                                             Bob Slaughter (Deceased)



DPS PRESIDENTS & VICE PRESIDENTS

YEAR       PRESIDENT          VICE PRESIDENT

1985               Joseph Gallo                              Bill Lowe

1986                 Bill Lowe                     Joseph Gallo, Gary Beadel

1987                 Bill Lowe                                Gary Beadel

1988               Ken Smith                                Arlene Pike

1989               Ken Smith                                Arlene Pik

1990             Roger Farish                           Mike Polcyn

1991             Roger Farish                         Roland Gooch

1992          Karen Samfield                        Roland Gooch

1993          Karen Samfield                          John Meyer

1994           John Meyer                           Rocky Manning

1995           John Meyer                           Rocky Manning

1996         Rocky Manning                        Brita Bishop

1997         Rocky Manning                        Brita Bishop

1998             Brita Bishop                           Anne Meyer

1999            Anne Meyer                      Velma Urbano Gara

2000            Anne Meyer                      Velma Urbano Garza

2001      Velma Urbano Garza               Fred Ransdell

2002      Velma Urbano Garza               Fred Ransdell

2003           Fred Ransdell                       Brian Bowles

2004          Fred Ransdell                        Brian Bowles

2005           Brian Bowles                        Phil Scoggins

2006           Brian Bowles                        Phil Scoggins

2007           Phil Kirchoff                        Frank Holterhoff

2008           Phil Kirchoff                        Frank Holterhoff

2009        Frank Holterhoff                 Winston Culpepper

2010       Frank Holterhoff                  Winston Culpepper

2011      Stephan Gozdecki                 Kristin Carleton

2012     Stephan Gozdecki                  Kristin Carleton

2013       Rocky Manning                   Lee Higginbotham

2014       Rocky Manning                   Lee Higginbotham

2015    Lee Higgenbotham                   Polly Mullinex

2016    Lee Higgenbotham                   Polly Mullinex

2017         Tom Dill                                Shauna Young

2018         Tom Dill                                  Judi Altstatt

2019     Philip Scoggins                    Stephan Gozdecki

2020     Philip Scoggins                       Estée Easley

2021       Estée Easley                         Kate Fenton

2022       Estée Easley                         Kate Fenton



                                                                           Fossils Donated by Members for Research

BONY FISH   Kelley Irwin, Robert Reid III, Sam & Becky Liberato, Joseph Fritsch, Brad Carter, Virginia Friedman

SHARKS AND RAYS     Roger Farish, Mark McKinzie, Bob Williams

SEA TURTLES     David Hill

ICHTHYOSAURARS   Lee & Mindy Duchouquette, Kevin Bridges, Wes Kirpach

MOSASAURS and SISTER TAXA     Brent Dunn, Jon Cartier, Jim Chaney, Don Fagerstrom, Linda & Roger Farish, Mac Glaess, Shawn Hamm, Gerry Hightower, Fred Hirschler, Bill Johnson, Lynn Jue, Wes & Kerry Kirpach, Mark McKinzie, Jihn Maurice, John Mc Graw, Ross & Jan McMillan, John Moody Jr., Jim Poepsil, Sandy Polcyn, John Saunders, Ken Smith, Lewis Smith, Joe Simpson, Ed Switovy, Richard Van Atta, Bruce Welton, Shauna Young, Shawn & Richard Zak, Lloyd Hill, Mark Cohen, Van Turner, Ken Barnes, Kelly Irwin

CROCODYLIANS      Wes Kirpach, Kent Newman, John Maurice, John Byres, Brian Condon

PTEROSAURS     Vernon Mils, Chris Wadleigh, Lance Hall, Brent Dunn, Gary Byrd, Kevin Knight

NON-AVIAN DINOSAURS     Gary Spaulding, Cameron Campbell, Johnny Maurice, Richard & Shaun Zack, Gary Byrd, Dan Bittelman, Brad Carter, Tim Brys & son

BIRDS     Kris Howe

TRACE FOSSILS    Gary Echland, Bill Lowe, Lance Hall, Virginia Friedman

INVERTEBRATES     Mark McKinzie, John Maurice, Robert Reid III, Frank Holterhoff, Arlene Pike, Bob Williams, Linda Farish, Terry Roe

Who we are

The DPS is a group of professional and amateur paleontologists that want to exchange information, interact, and continue their education in paleontology.  We meet once a month on the second Wednesday evening of the month at Brookhaven College, Building H.



The FBI

If you have a question, if you have a fossil that you cannot identify, or need a site investigation, contact the Fossil Bureau of Investigation for help.

Contact Us at 817-355-4693 





Why join us

We have fun.

We learn stuff.

We go cool places.

We find interesting things.

We make new friends.



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