Lecture – “Fossils of Western Washington: a Marine Perspective”

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Lecture – “Fossils of Western Washington: a Marine Perspective”

Sunday, November 12, 2023
3:00 pm - 4:00 pm
*To keep this series accessible to all, regardless of the ability to pay, there is no set charge for the event; however, donations are always welcomed and appreciated.

“Fossils of Western Washington: a Marine Perspective”

Dr. Liz Nesbitt
Univ. of Washington and Burke Museum
and David B. Williams
Curatorial Associate, Burke Museum

No matter where you wander in Washington, you are never very far from the past and the evidence of the plants and animals that came before. You can find trilobites near the Idaho border, primitive horses on the Columbia Plateau, exquisite flowers in Republic, giant bird tracks near Bellingham, and curious bear-like beasts on the Olympic Peninsula. With abundant and well-exposed rock layers, Washington has fossils dating from Ice Age mammals only 12,000 years old back to marine invertebrates more than 500 million years old.

Join co-authors Dr. Liz Nesbitt and David B. Williams as they discuss this amazing array of past life, which is featured in their new book, “Spirit Whales and Sloth Tales: Fossils in Washington State”. They will provide the background on what inspired them to write the first book ever on fossils in the state, why they chose the fossils they did, and some of the new science that has allowed paleontologists to tease out the 500-million-year long story of life in this region. In addition, they will highlight some of the marine organisms, including several unusual whales, a six-foot-tall bird that resembled a penguin, and the state’s oldest fossils, trilobites and archaeocyaths.

Liz Nesbitt is curator emerita of invertebrate and micropaleontology at the Burke Museum and was associate professor of earth science at the University of Washington. Her academic studies focus on marine fossil faunas from the Pacific Northwest and what they can tell us about past climate stability and climate changes. In the museum she was involved in paleontology outreach and informal education programs for learners of all ages. She is currently working with Burke colleagues on measuring the health of Puget Sound waters using microfauna in bottom sediments.

David B. Williams is an author, naturalist, and tour guide whose award-winning book, “Homewaters: A Human and Natural History of Puget Sound”, is a deep exploration of the stories of this beautiful waterway. He is also the author of the award-winning book “Too High and Too Steep: Reshaping Seattle’s Topography”, as well as “Seattle Walks: Discovering History and Nature in the City”. Williams is a Curatorial Associate at the Burke Museum and writes a free weekly newsletter, the Street Smart Naturalist.

This lecture is one of the events happening the weekend of November 11-12.

On Saturday, Nov. 11 at 4pm, Quimper Geological Society hosts the authors for a complementary presentation and discussion of “Spirit Whales and Sloth Tales”. First Baptist Church, 1202 Lawrence Street. More info here.

Check out the Flagship Landing Gallery webpage to see all of the events happening during Fossil Weekend, and learn more about the exhibit, Fossil Lab: Our Ancient and Future Salish Sea.


Our lecture series, The Future of Oceans, draws on the commitment of professional researchers and educators across all academic spectrums to help define and inspire the health of our oceans.

To see the full lecture series for 2023-2024, visit our Lectures page.

Thanks to the Darrow Family for their ongoing support.


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