Alabama has an incredibly rich fossil record, with most geological periods since the start of the Phanerozoic about 540 million years ago represented on the surface. When rocks and sediments are exposed, fossils can often be found. Not surprisingly, Alabama is home to many fossil collectors, born and raised here and those who moved to Alabama.
Fossil collector Dr. Keith Jacobi (professor emeritus in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Alabama) moved to Alabama, but he is fascinated by fossils since he was a kid. With his family and others, he collected fossils in the 1970s in states such as New York, Wyoming, South Dakota, Michigan, Ohio, Nebraska, and Illinois. Most specimens were collected by Dr. Jacobi, whereas other specimens were found by Keith’s brother Wyn, his mother Hattie, and his grandmother Mildred Ackley. Since moving to Alabama, Dr. Jacobi has collected hundreds of fossils from Alabama too.
His collection consists of thousands of fossils in total. Now he has retired and will move to Minnesota soon, Dr. Jacobi expressed interest in donating the fossil collection to the Alabama Museum of Natural History so that more people can enjoy, learn from, and study the fossils. After a showing of the fossils, University of Alabama Museums’ Curator of Paleontology Dr. Adiel Klompmaker gratefully accepted the offer and made multiple trips to Dr. Jacobi’s house to jointly pack up the collection during the Spring 2022 semester. The collection consists of fossils such as shark teeth from Alabama, (fragmentary) dinosaur bones from Wyoming, sea scorpions from New York, ammonites and bivalves from Wyoming, fossil insects and fish from Wyoming, and plant fossils from Illinois.
One of the most scientifically significant portions of the collection are Pennsylvanian-aged (~310 million-year-old) fossils from the now inaccessible Pit 11 in the Braidwood area, Illinois. Nodules collected in the 1970s contain well-preserved plant remains such as Neuropteris, shrimp-like invertebrates, and various specimens of the so-called Tully monster (Tullimonstrum gregarium), an enigmatic organism that has spurred lots of research in recent years.
Once processed, the specimens can be used for scientific research, teaching, and outreach purposes. Dr. Jacobi’s generous donation is one of the many examples of an avocational paleontologist contributing important specimens to museum collections. The University of Alabama Museums thanks Dr. Jacobi for all his support to the paleontology collections!