West Coast Fossil Park Update – Pippa Haarhoff and Patricia Groenewald
Hayley Cawthra is doing research at the West Coast Fossil Park, she can perhaps also give an update at the next meeting. Deano Stynder is using the Fossil Park as a base for the annual UCT Archaeology 3rd year field school, to be held in June/July this year. The Archaeology Field Club (a student club affiliated with the South African Archaeological Society) is also planning a weekend at the Fossil Park in May. The Human Evolution Research Institute based at UCT is planning a weekend there for the Women’s Day long weekend in August. Xavier Middleton is a PhD student at UCT, who is studying the fossil rabbits/hares of the Fossil Park. Romala Govender does field work at the Fossil Park, and is the contact person for research on the collections held at Iziko.
There are some challenges to maintaining the dig site, including termite activity, the moisture and salts in the sediments, the dust and the wind, bird poop on the bones, and large fluctuations in temperature. Pippa Haarhoff is gathering a small team of specialists to help address the degradation. They might be getting a small weather station from a colleague in Sweden which will help. John Henshel and Roger Smith are part of the advising team. In the meantime they have to raise funds to replace the tunnel covering (R250,000) to stop rain coming in – URGENT JOB.
We have more presence on social media with Destinate Marketing working with the Fossil Park for the next three months – building on what they have been doing for the past year.
We are hosting an art exhibition “EVOLVE” curated by Prof Elfriede Dreyer. The works have been inspired by the Fossil Park story/setting – bringing art and science together. This seems to be an interesting emerging theme. The exhibition is from the 17th of March to the 30th of April 2023. Linked to this is the commitment to install works in the exhibition space for deaf and blind people. They have a small amount of funding to help do this from NHC.
The NHC funding is also for:
∙ market research into accommodation options in the Park for students, staff, researchers, visitors, Camino trail
∙ capacity building of existing staff
∙ palaeontology workshops for teachers
We are also hosting monthly public talks on our monthly market day which is the second Saturday of the month. Patricia Groenewald is the next speaker and they have just had John Compton – on the history of geology in South Africa. Suggestions for speakers will be welcome from the geoheritage group. Hayley is on our list.
We have a stronger relationship now with education through the Eskom Science Expo programme which is very promising for the Park. It is necessary to get many more schools to visit the Park. They only make up about 18% of the annual visitor stats. It should be at least 50%. The schools need support for travel costs.
There is more going on regarding the updating of their Vision and Mission, Master Plan, Heritage and Conservation Management Plan, revisiting the operating model for the Park with the Trustees and Iziko and South 32. Funding is an ongoing urgent and serious challenge for the Park.