Born and raised in Williams Lake

Born and raised in Williams Lake

Museum features fossil collection

Fossil fanatics will be in for a treat when they visit the Museum of the Cariboo Chilcotin for the next few weeks.

Mitchell Johnson

Special to the Tribune/Advisor

Fossil fanatics will be in for a treat when they visit the Museum of the Cariboo Chilcotin for the next few weeks.

Fossils from the Williams Lake area are now on display until mid-August.

These rocks give a glimpse into prehistoric Williams Lake and its natural history. When I was younger I found the fossil of a fern in my backyard here in Williams Lake, though I didn’t know what it was at the time.

Fossils were crucial in sparking my interest in science and animals, which was only fuelled over the years.

Fossilization is a rare event.

Generally, fossils form when an animal or plant dies and is buried soon after so that other animals don’t have a chance to eat it.

Mudslides and floods are likely causes of such rapid burials.

Over time more layers of dirt or silt are added over the dead animal or plant and the weight of all those layers squeezes out the minerals the animal used to have and replaces them with minerals from the surrounding layers of dirt or silt.

The harder parts of the animal like bones, teeth, or shells become rock embedded in the surrounding mud.

The layers of mud allow us to estimate how old the fossils are. We cannot be sure of the age of the fossils in our collection because we don’t know the exact location where they were found.

However, the Encyclopedia of British Columbia notes that fossils from the Cariboo-Chilcotin and nearby areas range in age anywhere from 650 million years old in the Cariboo Mountains and 65 million years old in Horsefly, to 25 million years old in Quesnel. Interestingly, the rocks in the Cariboo Chilcotin region are among the oldest in the province.

According to the Encyclopedia of British Columbia, much of this region used to be volcanic islands in what is now the Pacific Ocean which collided with ancient North America when it broke away from the supercontinent of Pangea.

The islands merged with the western coast of North America and created most of the interior and Chilcotin plateau and could explain the great age of the fossils in the Cariboo Mountains.

Many of the fossils in this exhibit came from Walter Albert Remier.

He was born in Germany in 1932 and brought his family to Canada in the 1950’s, eventually settling in Williams Lake in 1968.

Over the years he collected many fossils from Williams Lake and the surrounding area.

He wished for them to be donated to the museum after he died so others could enjoy them. The Remier fossils are some of the more detailed fossils in our collection, many showing imprints of the wings from insects or the veins of leaves.

The amount of detail shown in these fossils make them especially rare.

Other fossils have been donated to the museum by several different people over the years and these are some of the larger fossils in the museum’s collection. These larger fossils include a bed of shells and a piece of petrified wood.

My childhood interest in fossils was one thing that has led me to pursue a Bachelors of Science degree at Thompson Rivers University, majoring in animal biology.

A museum may seem an odd place for someone studying animals to work in over the summer, but when I started university here in Williams Lake I worked as a research assistant with one of the biology professors.

That gave me some basic skills as a curator which has now landed me at my current job with the Museum of the Cariboo Chilcotin as a curatorial assistant.

I spend my days in the storage room cataloguing artifacts and linking them to the database.

The hope is that soon we will know the precise location within the museum of each artifact in the collection, which will allow us to locate artifacts for creating displays faster and more efficiently.

The Museum of the Cariboo Chilcotin is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. during the summer.

For more information, please call 250-392-7404 or email us at mcc@wlake.com.

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