GIRARD — Rocks, fossils and minerals — Ainsley Viets can identify oodles of them.
Ainsley is a 14-year-old 4H participant and since she was seven years old, she’s been participating in a variety of 4H activities including Geology. Geology is a science that deals with the history of the earth and its life.
With the help of her mother Kim, Ainsley sifts through dirt for rocks, fossils and minerals to look for specimens. The specimens for her 4H project must come from Kansas or in the tri-state mining area and are found during geology tours.
“It’s a good family outing because when we go on state tours it’s mostly families, it’s a family thing,” Kim said.
During the tours approximately 200 participants gather at a site and pick up anything they believe might be a good rock, fossil or a mineral specimen. Later that night 4H science professionals help identify what they have found.
“We searched a dam around a pond and you look through the rocks and it’s hot,” Ainsley said.
“You sift through dust and dirt and rocks and particles,” her mom added.
“And you hope you find something,” the pair said in sync with a laugh.
Although it’s usually warm outside and it takes some time to dig and sift during these endeavors, what they find is worth it.
“The thrill of the hunt is great,” Kim said. Ainsley agreed.
Ainsley said one of her greatest finds are trilobites, “it’s kind of like a rolly polly, but ancient.”
Another was an, at first, mysteriously button shaped fossil, “once we cleaned it up we found out it was a crinoid dorsal cup,” Ainsley said.
Her top favorite finds over the years are still her fossilized worms and shark poop. Yes. Shark poop — a coprolite — was found in Kansas, signified by the fish bones in what appears to be a cylindrical-shaped rock.
“I didn’t know what it was at first,” she said. It was shortly found out when their friend who has participated in 4H activities for many years confirmed that it was in fact coprolite.
Once Ainsley finds the specimens she wants to put in the fair, she puts them in one of two boxes and labels them accordingly. The labels — especially at the state fair — need to be just right.
During these adventures Ainsley said she learned many things. For example, crinoids have two spines.
“It’s a lot of fun,” she said. “If you have an interest in paleontology or archaeology this is a good thing to start off with.
“And you get to go play in the dirt and that’s always fun.”
Kim seconded Ainsley.
“They talk about science, technology, engineering and math — this is science to the max,” she said.