Community Outreach

Identification Service

Found something you’d like identified?

If it is an artifact (something made by humans, such as an arrowhead) contact the Ohio Historical Society.
If it is a rock, mineral, fossil or bone - we can help. Call or email the Curator, Dale Gnidovec (614 292-6896; to arrange an appointment to bring it to the Orton Museum for identification, or send photos via mail or email. Make sure the photos are in focus, show more than one side of the object, and include something for scale (a coin, ruler, etc.)

If you think you have a meteorite, please read Telling Meteorites from Wrongs (see  link at right) before contacting us.

Some of the most common fossils in the local area are those of horn corals and brachiopods:

Horn corals

Devonian horn corals*

  • A horn coral was like a sea anemone that lived in a cone-shaped shell.


Devonian brachiopods*

  • Brachiopods looked like clams on the outside – a two-part shell with a hinge at the back - but were totally different inside.

Such fossils are quite common in the rocks around central Ohio because at the time they were alive (380 million years ago, during a time scientists have named the Devonian Period) Ohio was under a warm tropical sea and was much closer to the equator. Today Ohio lies 40 degrees north of the equator (in fact, the 40 degrees north line runs right through the OSU Campus) but in the Devonian Period Ohio was only about 20 degrees SOUTH of the equator, about where Australia is today. That is why the ocean that covered us was warm and tropical - Ohio was like the Bahamas!

That tropical ocean was filled with life - horn corals, colonial corals, snails, clams and brachiopods.

You can see more photos of horn corals and brachiopods in the publication "Fossils of Ohio" by Rodney Feldman and Merrianne Hackathorn, Bulletin 70 of the Ohio Geological Survey, which should be in every library in Ohio.  For Devonian horn corals turn to pages 87 and 89.  For Devonian brachiopods look at page 237.

*Photographs of horn corals and brachiopods courtesy of Mark Steinmetz.



The Orton Geological Museum also offers speakers that can come to your class or club and give presentations on a variety of geological subjects.  Current talks include:

1.  Introducing the Dinosaurs — describes how we find, excavate and reconstruct these marvelous beasts, discusses the major groups of dinosaurs, and ends with a look at some of the other animals (such as the swimming and flying reptiles) that lived at the same time.

2.  Rocks & Minerals – explains how minerals are identified using their physical properties (shape, luster, color, hardness, etc.) and how rocks form (the rock cycle) while over 40 good samples are passed around.

3.  The Dinosaur Disaster — considers some of the many theories that have been suggested to explain the extinction of the dinosaurs and other organisms at the end of the Mesozoic and discusses the evidence (or lack thereof) on which those theories are based.

4.  Ice Age Ohio — looks at the effects (erosional and depositional) glaciers have on the landscape, discusses theories for the causes of glaciation, reviews the animals that lived in Ohio during the Ice Age, and ends with a look at a dig near Findlay, Ohio, that produced many fossil bones.

5.  A Paleontologist Looks at the Jurassic Park Movies - The dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals in the JP films are very lifelike, but how scientifically accurate are they?  This talk discusses what the filmmakers got right and what they got wrong.

6.  Crossbeds and Bones — this is a look at vertebrate taphonomy.  Taphonomy is the subfield of paleontology that asks such questions as: “How did these animals die?  Did they all die at once?  How far were their remains transported?  How did they become buried?” After a brief introduction to the field, I show examples from my own research on a microvertebrate site in the Green River Formation of Utah and a dinosaur site in Alberta, Canada.

7.  The Magnificent Morrison - this talk looks at this Late Jurassic rock unit that has produced such well-known dinosaurs as Allosaurus, Apatosaurus (Brontosaurus), Diplodocus, and Stegosaurus from such famous sites as Dinosaur National Monument, Como Bluff and Bone Cabin.  For parts of 12 summers I helped excavate dinosaur bones from a Morrison site in southern Montana.

8.  Oil Rigs to Dinosaur Digs: Careers in Geology - Geologists are employed in many areas, from mining and energy resources to environmental protection and museums.  This talk looks at some of the many careers open to geologists.

9.  Teeth, Jaws & Claws – the Carnivorous Dinosaurs and Why Birds Are Dinosaurs. This talk looks at the tremendous diversity of theropods, the carnivorous dinosaurs, and why many scientists believe that birds are living dinosaurs.

10.  A Long Time Ago and Far Away – the Geologic History of Ohio.  From tropical seas and steamy swamps to glaciers a mile high, the land we call Ohio has seen many changes during the last 500 million years.

To schedule a talk, or for more information, call:  Dale Gnidovec, Curator, Orton Geological Museum, The Ohio State University:   614 292-6896   or use email: