Volume 2, Number 2               Friends of the Gray Fossil Site news                      Fall 2003



President:  Steve Wilson, 423-239-0456     Directors:     Charles Bartlett,  
VicePresident:  Brenda Calloway, 423-245-7468     Lydia Sinemus,     Martin Kohl,  
Secretary:  V. Collins Chew, 423-239-6237     R.E. Whittemore,     Anne Whittemore  
Treasurer:  Marta Adams, 865-397-0350       Editor:  Anne Whittemore  


           My apologies to the membership for not publishing a newsletter before this.  I was holding out for a Membership meeting this fall and hoping to kill two tapirs with one blow (so to speak), but the meeting is still in the planning stages.  I decided NOT to wait any longer.


What’s been happening at the Gray Fossil Site

            Well, the drenching, soaking  rain we had this spring and summer took quite a toll on the amount of digging which could be done.  Dr. Wallace taught a Field Methods class in which students attended a Monday lecture and spent the remainder of the week in the great outdoors at the Gray Fossil Site perfecting the methods.  Any Friends member of college age or older who would like to register for this course is warmly welcome.

            One student digging along the wall in the “pit” area near the limestone boulder found a partial skull of a short-faced bear.  According to Dr. Wallace, this very significant find will greatly delineate the age of the Site, bringing it to 4.5 to 7 million years  Another interesting find this summer was the partial skull of a saber-toothed cat. 



           On Monday, October 6, Collins Chew and I attended a fact-gathering session at the Central Physical Activity building at ETSU sponsored by Gallagher & Associates, a prominent exhibit designer (Bethesda, MD) who have been hired to develop ideas for the Gray Site.  They conducted the sessions with interested groups from ETSU, the local school systems, and the community.  Among the community members who registered their comments were the Friends of the Gray Fossil Site, Bays Mountain Park, the Visitor’s Bureau, Hands on Museum, Carroll Reece Museum, teachers and students from Daniel Boone High School and Holston Middle School.  

            We hope to have a report from them by the first of the year as to their findings.  According to Dr. Wallace, ground breaking for the Visitor’s Center at the Site is scheduled for this spring with a two-year completion date.

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            The newly-found partial skulls of short-faced bear and saber-toothed cat, as well as a nearly-perfect turtle shell are currently on display at the Reece Museum at the ETSU Johnson City campus.  The display is running from September 18 to October 19 with the possibility of being extended into November.  The Reece Museum is open 10 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday-Wednesday and Friday, from 1:00 to 7:00 p.m. on Thursday and from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.  If you come during the week while classes are in session, you’ll need to go by the ETSU Information booth off of University Parkway for a Visitor Parking Permit.  Doesn’t cost a thing, but know your license plate number before going to the booth.




            In a letter to the FGFS Directors dated  August  2003, President Steve Wilson listed the results of a conversation with Dr. Wallace [hereafter referred to as Wally] about the future of the Friends group: 

1.  There are three key ways that the Group can support the Gray Fossil Site:

            a.   Public Outreach such as giving talks to schools, scout troops/scout leaders, civic
groups, churches to name a few; displays at Earth Day celebrations, booths at city fairs,  etc. 

            b.   Recruiting and organizing volunteers

            c.   Fund raising

             We have contributed in only one of these roles so far, but Wally sees us contributing to the Site in all three ways as the group grows.  We’ve contributed in the public outreach role and Wally is thankful for the support.  It is very useful to keep the site in front of the public.  For now, Wally and Larry (Bristol) are training and coordinating volunteers, but that role can be rolled into the Friends group as more volunteers get trained in digging.  These will begin training other volunteers. 

2.  It is understood that the Friends group must grow if it is to exist.  To grow, we have to keep people interested in the Group roles at the site.  I believe (Steve Wilson) that we need periodic communications to keep members interested in the Site.  We (Wilson/Wallace) agreed to establish a goal of two meetings a year scheduled basically in the spring and in the fall.  Plus, we should have a newsletter for the members published every quarter.  Wally requests that only one person communicate with him concerning Friends Group business in order to keep down the number of duplicate requests.  At this time, that one person is our president, Steve Wilson.

3.  When the grant money starts to flow, it is expected that a full-time staff will be hired to work at the site.  Wally had hoped to have the staff in place summer 2003, but now it seems likely to happen summer 2004.


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4.  Resources for presenting talks:  ETSU will grant us access to the bone-casting molds.  They will take care of the big expense in making the molds, and we can then have additional casts made at a reasonable cost.  Again, patience is needed; this is not going to happen tomorrow.


5.  Volunteers:  For now Wally and Larry are training and coordinating the volunteers, but that role can be rolled into the Friends group as more volunteers get trained in digging.  We will then begin to train other volunteers.  It is important to Wally that each volunteer be technically capable in the field thus there is close attention to their training.



                The Board of Directors of the Friends of the Gray Fossils Site agreed to fund the registration fee of Marta Lalinde-Adams, Treasurer of the Group, to attend Arts On the Move, Governor's Regional Conferences On the Arts: East Tennessee. The Conferences, sponsored by the Tennessee Arts Commission were held at the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg on September 25, 2003. The workshops offered tracts on financial management, strategic planning, grant writing, funding opportunities, how to improve media relations, information management, exhibition and marketing, creating arts education partnerships, linking arts to education in the community, heritage tourism, advocacy and web site development.
            The Governor's Conferences on the Arts are a series of regional workshops presented in different locations throughout the State. The Conferences are held every two years and provide opportunities for technical assistance, networking and the opportunity to learn from the variety of programs that stimulate and encourage the presentation of performing, visual and literary arts throughout the state and encourage public interest in the cultural heritage of Tennessee. These activities give citizens of the state a better quality of life, provide children with a more complete education and attract tourists to our State. Better communities are build by supporting and nurturing Tennessee's nonprofit arts organizations through a variety of grant programs.

          The Friends Group, as a non-profit organization, qualifies to develop an "Arts in Education Program" involving science, arts and writing skills that can be used in the schools to teach students about the Gray Fossil Site and the activities performed by the researchers.  The Group is also planning to develop a lecture program with slides, PowerPoint presentations and handouts for presentations at schools and to interested groups. The Group plans to apply for some of the grants available to fund these projects.  Steve Wilson and Marta Lalinde-Adams, President and Treasurer of the Friends Group have registered the organization with the Division of Charitable Solicitations from the State of Tennessee.

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Treasurer’s Report (cont.) The Friends Group will now be able to solicit tax deductible contributions to implement programs and to help Dr. Steven Wallace and Larry Bristol with some of the projects/needs of the site. 

            The Friends Group now has a Certificate of Exemption from the Tennessee Department of Revenue to make purchases without payment of Sales and Use tax or taxable services to be used or consumed by the organization. The organization will now be able to find a supplier for T-shirts that will be printed with the official logo of the Gray Fossil Site. The logo was commissioned by ETSU and was provided for this purpose by Dr. Wallace.  The Friends Group hopes to provide membership cards and window stickers to its members in the near future.


            An article in the Journal for Cave And Karst Studies, Volume 65, no.2, August 2003, published by the National Speleological Society caught my eye recently because it dealt with a short-faced bear.  Inquiring of Dr. Wallace as to whether I could use high points of it for our newsletter, resulted in a negative reply.  Dr. Wallace noted that this bear from an Ozark cave  would likely be the wrong age and the wrong genus.  In fact, he is correct because this Pleistocene bear was much taller than the Miocene-aged bear in Tennessee.  The Arkansas bear was huge when upright (8-9 feet tall) and a fast runner.  Our Tennessee bear, which lived in the late Miocene and early Pliocene, was very small, 100-200 pounds at most.  Both taxa of short-faced bear belong to the Tremarctini, a subfamily for a tribe of bears that include the living spectacled bear of South America.

            For those with Internet access, you may wish to visit the following website:  www.bearbiology.com/spdesc.html.  For those without, I’ve included the high points about the one living member of this family in South America. 

            The spectacled bear is small and dark, ranging in color from black to brown; a few have a reddish tinge.  It has distinctive circular or semicircular creamy white markings on the face around the eyes, the amount and pattern of which can be quite variable.  Lines and patches of white usually extend onto the throat and chest as well.  Spectacled bears are highly adaptable and are found in a wide range of habitats, including rainforest, cloud forest, dry forest, steppe lands and coastal scrub desert.  Possibly because of loss of habitat and persecution by humans, they appear to be more common in heavy forest.  They are mainly found in or near forested mountains from Venezuela and Colombia through Ecuador, Peru and into Bolivia.  These bears eat a wide variety of foods, including rabbits, mice, birds, berries, grasses, and orchid bulbs.  They have a strong preference for the leaves, bases, and hearts of plants in the Bromelide family and the fruits of other plant groups.  Sometimes they will climb cacti to feed on fruit at the top.  Tree nests are often constructed as a platform to feed from fruit-laden branches and to sleep in.

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The next Directors’ meeting will be Tuesday, November 11, 2003, 7:00-9:00 p.m. at the Whittemore’s home.  Any non-Director wishing to attend may call for directions.




                The Board would like to hear from YOU.  What projects would you like the Group have?   How would you like to be involved?   

            We hope that Wally will consider the Friends having a room in the small house on the Site to open a store to sell T-shirts, mugs, etc. That would give us a fundraising outlet and could be staffed by volunteers from the Friends.



Family $25                                 Individuals:          $15      

Sustaining:   $35                        Students, Disabled, Seniors:    $10

Corporate:  $100/year



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            Regarding the short-faced bear:  “The lower teeth are enough to identify the genus and we hope the species,”  Wallace said.  “What’s neat with these bears is that they’re not clearly known in the fossil record.  They’re mostly known from teeth, so anything we find from the skeleton is going to be significant.”  The saber-toothed cat’s fragments came from a dig near the surface, so road crews likely unknowingly removed other portions of the fossilized  skeleton.  Researchers also found a tail vertebra from another cat in a different part of the site, leading Wallace to believe that more cat fossils are on the site.  “This cat,” he said, “is the size of a puma.” 

            “It’s not a full skeleton like we would hope, but it shows the animal was there,”.  The saber-toothed cat specimen came from the same square where Wallace had discovered what he hoped would be the Site’s first full tapir skeleton.  Tapirs represent the site’s most abundant fossils by far, but the digs have yet to produce a complete skeleton lying in place.  ...  But researchers have barely scratched the surface at the site.  “Once we get below the disturbed surface, down into the actual sediment, I think we will find more things that are complete.”

            Wallace also learned more about a weasel fossil found in an earlier dig.  The species may be an Asian variety, hinting that animals had immigrated from other parts of the world and wound up here over time.  “It hasn’t been found here before.  We knew it was a new species, but it turns out it was more significant than we thought.”

            The University is planning a 50,000 square foot facility that will include museum areas, research laboratories and classrooms.  “We’re trying to tie the facility in with the local school curricula,” Wallace said.  Wallace hopes the university can break ground for the center next spring.

See http://www.johnsoncitypress.com/default.asp?SectionID=DETAIL&ID=27539 for the item.