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Have you ever thought about how exciting it would be to make an important scientific discovery? In paleontology, anyone with a love of science and discovery, some patience, eagle eyes, and a willingness to get dirty has a chance of doing just that! Amateur fossil hunters have discovered new species, assembled important collections, and collaborated with professionals to write groundbreaking scientific papers. Many have donated their fossil discoveries to museums around the world so that visitors can see them and future generations of scientists can study them. Amateurs have also worked to preserve important fossil sites threatened by development or destruction.

Our understanding of Cretaceous life in Maryland would be much less complete without the dedicated work of several amateur paleontologists who have worked with Smithsonian and university scientists to describe and document their finds. Here we profile three whose fossil discoveries are on display in the “Dinosaurs in Our Backyard” exhibit at the Smithsonian.

Ray Stanford

Ray Stanford holds a rock that has many small dinosaur tracks.
Ray Stanford began collecting Cretaceous fossils when he retired to Maryland in 1986. Over the years, in stream beds throughout the area, he discovered hundreds of dinosaur tracks and other important and amazing evidence of animal life in the Washington DC area 110 million years ago. One of his favorite discoveries was the imprint of the baby nodosaur Propanoplosaurus, which is now on display in the “Dinosaurs in our Backyard” exhibit at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. This specimen is the subject of his latest scientific paper, written in collaboration with Johns Hopkins University professors David Weishampel and Valerie B. Deleon.

Read our interview with Ray Stanford

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Read popular press articles about Ray Stanford and his discoveries:

Stanford publications list:

  • Stanford, R., and Lockley, M. G. (2002): Diverse vertebrate track assemblages from the Early Cretaceous of Maryland. - Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 22(Suppl. 3): 111A.

  • Stanford, R., Weems, R. E., and Lockley, M. G. (2004). A new dinosaur ichnotaxon from the Lower Cretaceous Patuxent Formation of Maryland and Virginia. Ichnos 11:251-259

  • Stanford, R., Lockley, M. G. & Weems, R. (2007): Diverse dinosaur dominated ichnofaunas from the Potomac Group (Lower Cretaceous) Maryland. - Ichnos, 14: 155-173.

  • Stanford, R., Weishcample, D.B., and Deleon, V.B. (2011). The First Hatchling Dinosaur Reported from the Eastern United States: Propanoplosaurus marylandicus (Dinosauria: Ankylosauria) from the Early Cretaceous of Maryland, U.S.A. Journal of Paleontology; September 2011; v. 85; no. 5; p. 916-924

Thomas R. Lipka

Tom Lipka in the field.
Thomas Lipka works for the City of Baltimore and collects and studies fossils in his spare time. He has donated dozens of local Cretaceous fossils to the Smithsonian, including the type specimens of a turtle, Arundelemys, and a mammal, Arundelconodon. (A type specimen is a fossil that differs from all previously described fossils and becomes the basis for defining a new species.) He has collaborated with numerous scientists to describe and analyze his discoveries, and has published several research papers.

Read our interview with Thomas Lipka

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Read Tom Lipka's scientific papers at:

Learn about type specimens in the NMNH Department of Paleobiology collections at:

Dave Hacker

Dave Hackerwith visitors to the Dinosaur Park.
Dave is a lifelong resident of Maryland. A self-described nature buff with varied interests, his hobbies include fossil hunting and science-related travel such as scuba-diving trips, visiting active volcanoes, and viewing total solar eclipses. He is an active volunteer, guide, and organizer for the Prince George’s County Maryland Dinosaur Park, and a frequent contributor of Cretaceous fossil finds to the Smithsonian.

Read our interview with Dave Hacker

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