Fossil Finding at Fort Negley in Nashville: Linking Deep-Time and Civil War History

Thursday 3:30pm TSU - Humphries: 221


Molly Miller, Vanderbilt University
Gregory Smith, Vanderbilt University
Krista Castillo, Metro Nashville Parks
William T. Harris, Metro Nashville Parks
Kitty Porter, Friends of Fort Negley
Jon Badgett, Vulcan Materials Company
Jennifer Berry, Metro Nashville Public Schools
The Friends of Fort Negley Park(FOFNP) have partnered with Vanderbilt University (EES Department), Vulcan Materials Company, and Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) to provide fossil programs at the urban greenspace Fort Negley Park. During the Civil War, Middle Tennessee's Ordovician limestones, having very little insoluble residue and thus thin soil, necessitated the building of the Union Army's Fort Negley through labor-intensive quarrying. Built by thousands of enslaved, self-emancipated and free African-Americans, many forced into service, Fort Negley was finished quickly despite deplorable living conditions and hundreds of deaths. The limestone ruins of Fort Negley remain today along with the quarry site utilized by the Works Progress Administration when rebuilding the fort in the 1930s.

These collaborative fossil initiatives: 1) engage Nashvillians with the abundant fossils in the Paleozoic limestones; 2) provide fun earth science activities for Nashville elementary school students that align with science standards; 3) link the paleogeographical setting to Fort Negley's importance in the Civil War and to Nashville's present-day environmental issues; and 4) enhance and diversify the learning experiences of Vanderbilt EES students by adding a service-learning component.

"Fossils at the Fort" is presented annually by students in Vanderbilt's "Life through Time" course for the Nashville community, attracting as many as1000 visitors per event. Before the event, students observe and interpret the fossils, including in situ tabulate corals in Fort Negley limestone and learn the identity and life habits of the marine fossils in the pile of fossil-rich rock delivered by Vulcan Materials Company from a nearby quarry. During the event students share what they have learned with the public.

Additionally, a grant from the Nashville Predators supported development of school field trips, serving >900 MNPS students in spring, 2019. Students discover fossils and link Nashville's deep time history to the Civil War and modern environmental challenges.