FRIENDS OF THE GRAY
FOSSIL SITE NEWSLETTER
Volume 1, Number 3 March 2002
President: Maybeth Peterson Board of Directors: Lydia Sinemus, Secretary: V. Collins Chew Dr. Charles Bartlett, Larry Bristol, Vice President: Lusetta Jenkins Robert E. Whittemore, Tara Hinkle Treasurer: Anne Whittemore Dorothy Humpf, Four officers
Newsletter Editor: Anne Whittemore
Welcome to the third issue of the newsletter. Although it has been awhile since our last official meeting in June 2001 and our last newsletter in September 2001, the Friends of the Gray Fossil Site have been quite active.
Our third meeting, intended to coincide with an Open House for the Friends to meet the newly-arrived paleontologist hired by East Tennessee State University, was abruptly moved from the Gray Library to the auditorium of the Hands On Regional Museum in downtown Johnson City. Although effort was made to get the word out to all in the Friends group, we were unable to be as thorough as we would have liked. An informal gathering of people, some of whom had come from as far away as Knoxville and Rogersville, witnessed the introduction of Dr. Steven Wallace, who gave a short talk on his plans for the Site. Refreshments were served afterwards and there was a great deal of time for questions and answers and general sharing. All were invited to see our display. I hope that many who were unable to be at the Open House did get by to see the display.
Thanks to Collins Chew, the Friends were represented at the Kingsport TN Exchange Place fair in September. Collins has given many talks to groups throughout the fall and winter to school classes, civic groups, church groups and special interest groups. His last presentation was to the Wolf Valley Archeological Society in Abingdon, Virginia.
Dr. Wallace also has presented a number of talks to all sorts of groups throughout the Tri-Cities including the Institute of Continued Learning which meets on the VA campus and at the Johnson City Senior Center.
This editor presented two talks at the January Wilderness Wildlife Week in Pigeon Forge and will be presenting a slide show at Winged Deer Park' s "Friday Night Flicks" in early June.
Harry Moore, TDOT Geotechnical Specialist and Friends member spoke to a large gathering invited by the Sullivan County FCE groups under the auspices of the County' s Agricultural Extension Service at Wheeler Methodist Church, Blountville, TN on March 5, 2002. Coming from the aspect of the geologist in charge of the road construction project on State Route 75, his presentation was unique as he detailed the early months of the discovery and the perplexity of all involved as to how further road construction should be handled.
He pointed out that bones from two rhinoceros individuals have been found at the Site and that a small collection of fish bones from the sunfish family (includes bream and bluegill) were found. Also land and fresh water snails, several species of snakes, and one bone from a large bird. Small mammals such as shrews also have been identified through sifting of the small matrix.
Rhinoceroses, he noted, have only been found in three places east of the Mississippi River, i.e., in Indiana, Florida and now at the Gray Site. Because the rhinoceros died out in North America about 5 mya, the Gray Site is very unique. According to Mr. Moore, paleontologists from Florida State University, University of Nebraska, Michigan State University, and most recently, University of Arizona are interested in the findings at the Gray Site. Quite soon, he told the assembled gathering, we would see intense interest from international scientists!
If anyone is interested in procuring a slide show to present talks, please let us know. We' ll be glad to share any of the slides that the Friend s have accumulated, give any coaching tips, and provide membership information for the Friends . The more people who can share about the Site, the better coverage we' ll have in the entire region.
For the purpose of helping with fundraising, Friends members, Marta Adams and Tony Underwood, have donated high quality and beautifully-made sterling silver jewelry. Available are alligator pins, a few sterling silver bracelets as well as alligator, rhinoceros, and elephant charms. We were able to sell several of the charm bracelets at the Hands On Museum. Please see Anne Whittemore if you are interested in purchasing this remarkable jewelry. Tony hopes to have tapirs made sometime this year.
NEXT MEETING? Hate to say this, but we don't know. The plan is to have it either at the Gray Library or at the Site. We think it will be sometime in May. If we have an e-mail address for you, we' ll contact you in that manner regarding the meeting. We are getting so many members, we really need some phone callers to help out so that those who don' t have e-mail may be called. Call Anne Whittemore at 423-477-2235 if you are willing to help out!
PLANS FOR THE FRIENDS OF THE GRAY FOSSIL SITE
1. We need new officers and board members.
2. We need a Nominating Committee who will solicit at least two nominations for each office.
3. We need people with vision and a desire to get a new organization "off the ground"!
4. We need fund-raisers with ideas of how we can earn money and secure grants to help with additional land purchase and toward building a museum.
5. It' s been suggested that we sell T-shirts to make money. We need someone to head up that committee.
6. An assistant to the newsletter editor would be nice.
7. We' ll be participating in Earth Day again at Johnson City Walmart on April 13, 2002 from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. We need volunteers to stay with the display and answer questions.
8. WE NEED VOLUNTEERS!!!!!
NEW OFFICERS AND BOARD MEMBERS NEEDED
Our Bylaws, Article 3, notes that the Board of Directors is the governing body of the Corporation. It is the responsibility of the Board to manage and administer the affairs of the Friends to include meeting the Corporation's financial and legal obligations. The Board is to be composed of four officers and an odd number of persons of no less than seven and no more than thirteen. Any member of the FRIENDS is eligible for election to the Board as long as he/she has reached the age of majority (18) and has the capacity to contract. Board members shall serve a three year term and may be re-elected to serve consecutive terms. Initially, one-third of the Board members shall be appointed to serve for three years, one-third for two years, and one-third for one year. Subsequently, elected board members shall all be for three year terms.
No member of the Board of Directors shall receive any salary or compensation for their services as director. Members may receive reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses incurred while conducting authorized business on behalf of the Corporation.
All officers of the Corporation shall be elected every two years by the membership-at-large at the last meeting of the calendar year. The term of office will begin in January following the election and continue for two full years.
The Nominating Committee of the Board will solicit nominations from the membership-at- large and prepare a slate of candidates to be voted on by all members. Reasonable effort will be used to find at least two nominations for each open position.
In this issue : Update on the Site activities, All you ever wanted to know about alligators, Why pollen is so important at the Gray Site, application to work at the Site, tax deductions for workers at site, and log-in information for workers.
GRAY SITE UPDATE
by Dr. Steven Wallace
1. The buildings are up! In late October two large (24' x 96' and 48' x 96' ) "greenhouse"style structures were donated and erected by TDOT. The buildings were designed to be temporary (in the sense that they can be moved), but are very sturdy and will likely last for many years to come. Much of the next few months (spring - early summer) will be spent customizing these buildings to our needs.
2. On the 30th, UT at Knoxville donated several large fossil proboscidean (elephant) specimens from the Gray Site to ETSU. these specimens are still undergoing cleaning and preparation, but should be available for study and display later this spring
3. At the request of our Friends President, Maybeth Peterson, TDOT made a brown sign for the Gray Fossil Site and erected it on the property inside the fence so that it is visible from the road. The head of a rhinoceros is featured on the sign.
1. A nearly complete tapir skeleton was discovered eroding from the State Route 75 road cut on the 11th. Excavation began shortly thereafter and continued for several weeks.
1. The tapir discovered in November was fully exposed by mid December. The skeletal elements were in correct anatomical position and it was decided to remove the specimen within the "block"of matrix that contained it to minimize disturbance (and just in time to avoid some of the first spurts of winter). The block now rests in an ETSU laboratory where it is currently being prepared.
1. The volunteer meeting held on the 28th was a huge success. With very little advertising, the attendance was close to 40! I was very pleased with the turn out and will try to utilize everyone who is willing to help. For those of you who were present, please be patient. We will try to give you a call as soon as we need your help. For those of you who missed the meeting, please fill out an information sheet (back page of this newsletter) for our records, and we will contact you as soon as we need assistance.
2. Around the middle of January, ETSU provided an operational budget for conducting research at the site. This budget will be used to purchase tools, lab equipment, conservation materials, storage cabinets, casting materials, and to customize the buildings. Furthermore, ETSU is working with me to locate additional funds for water and electricity at the site.
1. The (Carroll) Reece Museum on the ETSU campus has agreed to house the collected material from Gray. An "on site"museum is still one of our goals, but even when this is completed, we will still require a repository for the majority of the specimens collected.
2. Bays Mountain Park, Kingsport TN, is currently setting up a series of paleontological displays at their facility, one of which will focus on the Gray Site. I will be assisting them over the next few weeks with their efforts.
3. Although it will not be erected for several weeks, TDOT has donated a third green-house to the site. Like the first two, this building will need to be customized.
4. TDOT gave ETSU access to the small green house (and barn) that are across from the site on February 11. This space will be used for a field office and to store equipment.
5. On the 14th, ETSU provided me (us) with over 2000 square feet of on-campus floor space to use for temporary storage and initial preparation of extremely large specimens. If heavily utilized, this space could be permanently allocated to our project. Although the facility (just on the edge of campus) is in disrepair, the ETSU Physical Plant staff will be revitalizing the space over the next 2-3 weeks.
1. Active excavation should begin as soon as the ground dries at the Site. Currently, it is a swamp out there!
2. I will be offering a field course this coming summer entitled "Methods in Paleontology". this year' s focus will be the Gray Site, but I purposely left the title vague so the theme could be changed from year to year (i.e., other sites, specimen preparation, molding/casting, illustrating, etc.) This course will be offered for both undergraduate and graduate credit. For more information, contact the Geography, Geology, and Geomatics Department at 423-439-7653. Note: Dr. Wallace is currently teaching a class on invertebrate paleontology.
by Brenda C. Calloway
Writer, Historian, Illustrator
Descended from an ancient lineage of reptiles, alligators appeared on earth long before the Age of Dinosaurs. Once common in southern Triassic swamps where they grew to 20 feet or longer, they and their close kin are the sole-surviving members of the archosaurs, or "ruling reptiles" alive today. During the Age of Reptiles (Jurassic period), dinosaurs and their kin, alligators and flying pterosaurs, dominated the air, land , and the waters of the Earth. Of all the host of forms to which the reptile world gave rise, only four orders survive: the crocodiles and the alligators, tortoises and turtles, lizards and snakes, and the ancient lizard-like tautara. Remarkably constant in structure throughout their evolution, present-day alligators look much like those that lived over 230 mya., during the Mesozoic Era.
The first of these reptiles appeared in the early Triassic period, and later spread around the world. Their size varied greatly. One ancestral genus was the protosuchus ("primitive lizard"), which was about 30-36" long. The creature had a relatively short head with blunt snout, large eyes, and a tail of moderate length. Its back, body, and tail were encased in rectangular plates which gave it protection from hungry marine reptiles. Another was the Triassic phytosaur ("plant lizard"), a carnivorous reptile that ranged from 25 to 50 feet in length; the skull was 42 inches long. Its body was covered with bony armor overlain by horny scutes. The skull resembled that of a modern gavial, with bulging "forehead" and slender jaws with very sharp, pointed teeth. The feet on its stubby legs had become broad, webbed paddles with well-developed toes. It was an active swimmer. A third ancestor was the geosaur ("earth lizard") , which spent most of its life in the sea. This reptile was smooth-skinned and armorless, with a slender body, long snout, and a very long tail in which the backbone bent downward, indicating a terminal fin. Most of its swimming was done with the tail; the limbs which had become fin-like paddles, served as balancing organs.
These early alligator-like reptiles spread around the world in the late Triassic and during the Jurassic periods; their fossils have been found in Europe and South American, across the Hudson River from New York City, in North Carolina, and at many places in the southwestern United States. Many were active hunters that prowled along coastal areas and in swampy shallows, seeking fish or other reptilian prey. They lived in sluggish streams, rivers, and in swamps, where they swam with their compressed tails, and often lay with only their nostrils above the water. Most mesosuchians survived through the Cretaceous and into the Miocene epoch.
A new wave of crocodilian progress began in the dawning of the Cretaceous (or "Chalk") period or sometimes known as the "Age of Great Lizards". Within this long period the three groups of crocodilians that still exist today were produced: snouted gavials, broad-nosed alligators and sharp-nosed crocodiles. Except for a few alligators, all these modern eusuchians lack armor on their sides and bellies. Their temporal openings are small and their vertebrae are concave in front, but convex behind. The final solution for the problem presented by external nostrils on a long nose or snout was also found. In eusuchians, nostrils remained on the snout while the air tube stretched to the hind part of the skull near the opening of the windpipe. With this improvement, plus a membrane that closed the throat, these reptiles were able to breathe without getting water into their lungs even when their mouths are open.
Alligators belong to the order Crocodilia, family Alligatoridae, and suborder Eusuchia. True Crocodilians form a long-lived order that includes true crocodiles, gavials, alligators, caimans, and their fossil relatives. The Crocodilians are divided into at least three groups: the caiman of South and Central America, the alligators of North America and certain Chinese rivers, and the crocodiles which are common to Africa, Asia, Australia, and North and South America being widespread in warm regions.
The Crocodilian order contains about 25 species which are still the most fearsome of all reptiles in appearance, speed, and ferocity. Most members of the three groups are at least six foot in length, or longer. The great body is carried on lizard-like legs, with the hind legs longer than the forelegs. The limbs are, of course, for walking on land or at the bottom of the water. The crocodilian' s huge, powerful tail serves to drive the animal through the water. It serves also as a weapon. These characteristics are two of several features still prevailing which show that crocodilians are related to the ancestors of the dinosaurs.
The suborder Eusuchia is the group of true crocodiles which includes the 21 living species of modern crocodile, the seven species of alligator and caiman, and the species of gavial. Alligators/crocodiles appeared in the modern forms in the late Cretaceous period. However, their ancestors evolved at least 80 million years before that, in the late Jurassic period, probably being descended from among the semi-aquatic mesoeacrocodylians. The eusuchians were once a much more abundant and widespread group than they are today. They had sturdy, well-armored bodies, massive heads, powerful jaws, and meat-shearing teeth. These weapons of the alligator/crocodile would have been used to overpower even a large dinosaur.
The family Alligatoridae consists of two non-tropical crocodilian reptiles: the American alligator classified as Alligator mississippiensis, and the Chinese alligator classified as Alligator sinensis. The American species is found in the rivers and swampy lowlands of the southeastern United States and ranges west to the Rio Grande River of Texas. Their average length is 10-12 feet now, but they can be as long as 19-20 feet with weight being about 250 to over 300 pounds. They rarely live past the age of 50; in captivity they have been known to reach the age of 56-58 years! During the Eocene and Miocene periods, the alligators were much longer, sometimes reaching a length of 50 feet and weighing nearly three times. They had fewer predators, thus living to a greater age.
The name "alligator"is a corruption of the Spanish el lagarto (the lizard). It is the general consensus that it was the caiman, rather than the alligator that the first white men in the New World saw. They called it el lagarto but, for unknown reasons, the name became changed in time to alligator. Caimans and alligators are more closely related to each other than to any other members of the crocodilian order.
Like their predecessors, the alligator' s body is suited for life on land and in water. The thick, horny skin covering their backs and tails is a masterpiece of plate and mail. Imbedded in the skin are heavy-ridged scales with dozens of small bones called osteoderms and on these are plates of horn. Throughout their lives, old worn portions are replaced by new growth underneath. The tough scaly skin covering their lower sides and bellies is much like that on its back, but smooth. The animals are extremely supple, although, owning to the formation of certain vertebrae in the neck, they are unable to turn their heads.
The alligator' s broad snout has powerful jaws set with many sharp teeth. There are more than 15 teeth in the lower jaw, which fit inside the line of the upper dental row, rather than interlocking with the teeth of the upper jaw when the mouth is closed. The nostrils are bulbs on top of their snouts and the eyes also stick up like knobs above the level of their heads. Therefore, an alligator can lie in the water with only its nostrils and eyes sticking out while their bodies are beneath the water. When the alligator submerges, valves close its nostrils. It also has flaps covering the openings to its ears, and a valve in the throat shuts off the windpipe so that the alligator can open its mouth underwater to grasp food without taking water into the lungs.
Today few alligators can be found that have reached a length of 12 feet. Males are usually 10-11 feet long and weigh 450-550 pounds. Females seldom measure more than 9 feet and weigh over 160 pounds. They seldom live longer than 20 to 25 years.
Even though alligators are not usually dangerous and will seldom attack human beings, their number and range has been greatly reduced by hunters. All species are now protected by law. Unless man willfully destroys them, they seem fated to live and prosper through millions of years to come.
The Book of Knowledge , Volume 13-14, The Grolier Society, New York, 1951, pp. 5226-5228.
Fenton, Carroll Lane and Mildred Adams, The Fossil Book , Doubleday & Co., New York, 1958, pp. 323-328.
Fichter, George S. Snakes and Other Reptiles , Golden Press, New York, 1968, pp.13, 17, 20-21 and 28-29.
Simon and Schuster: Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Creatures , New York, 1999, pp. 98-101
WHAT IS THE BIG DEAL ABOUT POLLEN
AT THE GRAY FOSSIL SITE
by Dr. Steven Wallace
Those of you who have attended one of my talks should have noticed that I always point out the presence of pollen at the Gray Fossil Site and stress its importance. I am sure that many of you thought quietly to yourselves: "What is the big deal about pollen?" Well, the answer has two parts: 1) it is unusual to have pollen of this age preserved in the first place, and 2) pollen can tell us a great deal about the past environments (independent of other fossil records). Obviously, these answers need to be explained
To understand why fossil pollen is so rare, one must first consider its life history. Essentially, pollen has to carry the genetic information from one individual plant to another individual of the same species in order to propagate that species. Unfortunately, the journey is often long and/or perilous, and most pollen grains simply fall to the ground and are lost. Plants have chosen to combat this problem by producing pollen in vast quantities and by giving pollen a tough outer coating (exine) that is resistant to decay. Not only do these features increase the likelihood that a pollen grain will reach its target and complete its objective, but these
characteristics also increase the chances that many pollen grains (that don' t reach their goal) will become incorporated into the fossil record.
Of course, pollen does not last forever. This is particularly true in oxygen-rich environments (oxidizing) which destroy the exine within a relatively short period of time. However, anoxic (no oxygen) conditions, which frequently occur in areas submerged in water, are very favorable to pollen and allow pollen grains to survive indefinitely. Hence, most pollen workers (palynologists) seek fossil pollen records by drilling sediment cores in peat bogs, wetlands, or in lake/ocean bottoms. Basically any location likely to contain deposits that have remained submerged (anoxic or at least low oxygen relative to the open air) since the time that the pollen was originally incorporated.
Samples taken from the Gray Site are quite rich in fossil pollen, yet are fairly devoid of fern spores, suggesting that there has been little loss of pollen through time. A high fern spore count suggests that the pollen is poorly preserved - fern spores are more resistant, but typically far less abundant, so the overall breakdown of fossil material would favor fern spore preservation over pollen.
So, why is the pollen so well preserved at Gray? Well, if you were one of the lucky few to have been on the site in the early days of the road construction, you can answer that question yourself. THE DEPOSIT WAS SATURATED WITH WATER! In fact, Marta Adams (a student from UT working on the Site) told me, "...water just flowed out of the bones as we picked them up..."
Clearly, the deposit was saturated at the time of construction. Moreover, it seems likely that the deposit (based on the abundance of preserved pollen) has been under the water table since its deposition. Don' t get me wrong; surely there were periods when the water table fluctuated and may even have dropped well below the fossiliferous deposits. but, as long as the sediments themselves remained saturated until the water table rose again, the pollen would have been preserved.
If the above statements are true, then you should have a question. Is the site now above the water table? Unfortunately, the answer is Yes! After exposing the sediments, altering the drainage and reducing the influx of water from the surrounding countryside, the water table has been locally depressed. Fortunately, the sediments themselves store quite a bit of moisture (particularly those "protected"sediments that are several feet below the current surface), and the rainy winter has kept the site moist. These conditions will not last very long, however, and drying will be a significant issue this coming summer. Most likely, any pollen that is near the surface will be lost. As for the pollen that remains at depth, it should be well protected as long as the water table does not continue to drop.
It should be clear that we were fortunate to recover pollen from the Gray Site, but how do we know what kind it is? Palynologists distinguish pollen from the Gray Site, but morphology (shape, structure, texture, sculpture, etc.). However, unlike vertebrate fossils, most pollen grains can only be identified to family, occasionally to genus, and very rarely to species. For this reason, specific interpretations are somewhat more limited than with vegetation (than vertebrate fossils, which are more site specific), and hence the true "environment"in which ALL of the organisms were living. In other words, neither vertebrates nor pollen can tell the whole story (alone), but when combined, a greater proportion of the past ecosystem can be reconstructed and interpreted.
How do "I" look for fossil pollen, you ask? Well, unfortunately, you can' t. Pollen is so small (typically 0.010-0.120 mm) that it would be nearly impossible to see it with the naked eye (even if it were modern, let alone fossil). Sure, you can see it on your car after a heavy rain in the spring, but keep in mind that what you are seeing is actually many thousands of pollen grains gathered into clusters. Moreover, the methods by which fossil pollen is prepared after it is collected are best performed in a laboratory where conditions are clean and contamination can be kept to a minimum (remember that modern pollen is everywhere and can contaminate your sample at anytime during the process!).
Then again, if you are simply dying to know how it is done, palynologists usually sample fossil pollen by extracting it from gathered sediment. Typically, the sediment is collected as a solid "core", but it also may be collected as a block sample (monolith) or as unconsolidated sediments. Once back in the laboratory, the sediment core is split and resampled from within (to minimize the possibility of contamination). These subsamples are than processed for fossil pollen and spores. The procedure is very labor intensive and utilizes harsh chemicals that would destroy most other fossils. Hence, this type of treatment is only done when specifically looking for pollen and/or spores. In a nutshell: 1) the sediment is broken down, 2) the coarse fragments are removed by sieving, 3) the solid content (rock and mineral fragments) is removed via acid washes, 4) the organic material is removed by dissolution in various washes, and 5) the remaining material is dispersed into a protective medium. This remaining solution should contain mostly pollen and spores. Identification is then as simple as placing the solution on a slide and viewing it under a microscope
Through similar procedures, Dr. Sally Horn (UT at Knoxville) has successfully isolated several samples of fossil pollen from the Gray Site. To date, she and several graduate students have identified many different taxa from the site via pollen, including: oak, hickory, pine, beech, various grasses, and a few aquatics. Excavations have also encountered high numbers of plant macrofossils (nuts, leaves, etc.) of these same taxa.
So, what about my original answer: is there a broader answer that would be more appropriate? Based on what I have discussed above, you should be able to figure this out.
Yes, it is unusual to have such old pollen....yes, pollen is important for....paleoecological reconstructions....but more importantly, pollen is a distinct piece of the complex puzzle preserved at the Gray Fossil Site that cannot be overlooked. Interpretations about past ecosystems derived from one source of data are valuable, but interpretations based on multiple sources are scientifically significant! It is sites like Gray, with its preservation of the complete environment (plants, animals, insects, etc.), that bring us one step closer to truly understanding the past.
VOLUNTEER HOURS TO BE LOGGED AT GRAY SITE
by Collins Chew
Secretary, Friends of the Gray Fossil Site
Volunteers are now beginning to work at the Gray Fossil Site as scientific investigation gets under way in earnest. A log sheet for volunteer time has been prepared for keeping the hours worked and by whom. This will be used in a number of ways. It will clearly show the strong support and
interest given by area people. This information can be used by the Friends of the Gray Fossil Site and by ETSU as they campaign for funding and proper development.
If you go to the Site and work, be sure to write down your name, the time in and the time out. Also, we would like your address given the first time you come. Some who itemize deductions may wish to have a record of their presence if they plan to use a mileage deduction. (See item under "Opportunities for Tax Deduction".) Also, the Friends of the Gray Fossil Site and possibly ETSU will probably want to recognize and honor those who work at the Site.
SAMPLE LOG OF VOLUNTEER HOURS
Log of Volunteer Hours
Gray Fossil Site
Please log in and out for times when you are doing volunteer work at the Gray Fossil site. This will allow the Friends of the Gray Fossil Site and ETSU to be better aware of who is working and how much time is being spent at the Site by volunteers. This will allow recognition for the workers and show the community interest to politicians, etc. that the Site is really supported by people in the community, locally and at large. Also, if needed, it can document your presence here in case you make a tax donation of the mileage (at $0.14 per mile) to come here to work. Please give your address the first time you work.
Date _________ Name __________________________________
Time In ______________ Time Out _______________
MEMBERSHIP DUES ARE DUE
If you joined the Friends of the Gray Fossil Site in March 2001, then dues are due for 2002. The address label should note when membership expires (above the name). Dues schedule per year is as follows:
Note: "Seniors"category has been abolished.
Send to Anne Whittemore (Treasurer), 208 Mark Drive, Gray, TN 37615
OPPORTUNITIES FOR TAX DEDUCTIONS AT THE GRAY FOSSIL SITE
First, a disclaimer: This is not official tax advice. You or your tax preparer are responsible for following the IRS rules and preparing a proper return. That said, there seems to be several ways to help the Gray Fossil Site operations and also to benefit from lower tax payments. ETSU, as a government agency, can accept tax-free donations as can the Friends of the Gray Fossil Site which has obtained a 501A tax exempt status. This means that donations to the Friends are also deductible from income for tax purposes. At this time, it is probably easier to donate to the Friends group.
The Friends have been accepting monetary donations, but there is an opportunity and need for donation of needed tools or other equipment. Only tools needed for the work can be accepted, so Dr. Wallace or his designated representative must approve the donation. A document describing the donated equipment will be signed by an officer of the Friends of the Gray Fossil Site with the value of the donation being provided by the donor. This document and the value provided by the donor may be used to justify a deduction from taxable income.
Another possible tax deduction may be for the mileage driven by volunteer workers at the Site. Currently, the IRS allows $0.14 per mile for donated mileage for those who itemize. The calculated expense of the donation is deducted from income before calculating tax. The Friends of the Gray Fossil Site or ETSU could be listed as the recipient. Incidentally, non-reimbursed mileage for driving to the Site as part of one' s work may be allowed at a much higher rate than for donations.
Again, these suggestions are to provide ideas. Obviously, this only applies for those with adequate deductions to go over the standard deductions allowed for everyone. You must match your personal situation with the IRS rules.
The last page is a Volunteer Information Sheet which those who want to work at the Site must fill out and return to Dr. Steven Wallace, PO Box 70679, ETSU, Johnson City, TN 37614. Or it may be faxed to the Department of Geography, Geology & Geomatics at ETSU to Dr. Wallace' s attention. The fax number for the Department is 423-439-7580. Questions??? Call Mrs. Sharon Chandler (departmental secretary) at 423-439-7653.