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Cinema Bayville

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Past, Present, and Future

Treasures of Calvert Cliffs

David Bohaska: Collecting along Calvert Cliffs goes back a long time. If you’re interested in whales and porpoises and mollusk shells and the like, Calvert Cliffs is widely acknowledged as just about the best.

Narrator: Wind, rain, waves, and the cycle of freezing and thawing all cause chunks of the cliff face to slide off into the Bay. This process exposes the fossilized remains of a wide variety of animals and plants.

Bohaska: Well, any two fossils, if you hold them, you can look at them and say, “These two are different.” But are they different because one was a young one and the other was old? Is one was male, one female? One is not enough. Just like with humans, if you look at people, no two people are alike. And if you were to describe what a person looked like you wouldn’t want to pick just one person. You’d look at a great number of people and see how they’re different.

Narrator: On this trip to Calvert Cliffs, Bohaska makes a rare find—a tiny bone that he thinks belongs to an ancient bird. He carefully wraps it, to protect it, until it can be cleaned and examined in the laboratory.

Bohaska: The advantage in the lab is that we can work on them with smaller tools. We can use magnifying glasses or microscopes to get a better look at it. And you can do things much more slowly. So it really is a lot of detective work. But there is a real thrill that sometimes you’re looking at something that no one has ever seen before.

It’s just not a matter of collecting them and throwing them into a drawer and forgetting them. Various questions are asked about the fossils. Some of it is in fact what we call paleoecology—trying to get a picture of what Maryland looked like fifteen million years ago.

Narrator: Fossil hunting at Calvert Cliffs is not just for paleontologists. Although you need special permission to go on the Cliff face, you can find many fossils just walking along the beach. But without erosion, the adventure of finding a fifteen million year old fossil would be a thing of the past.

Bohaska: Personally I would like to see areas set aside where we could allow erosion to occur—natural areas where there are no homes, that if erosion occurs, there would be no problems.

 

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