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Oct. 25 Field Trip

When: Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020

Where: Mount Tzouhalem 

Directions: Meet at Helmcken Park & Ride at 9 am. Carpooling optional/personal decision; masks must be worn if/while carpooling, social distancing mandatory throughout the field trip.

What will I be collecting? East of Duncan lies Mount Tzouhalem, a high point of land that overlooks Cowichan Bay. Much of the mountain is forested, and some of it is protected by an ecological reserve, but the northern side of the mountain has been subdivided and has many residential properties. At the top of the mountain an enormous area was cleared and landscaped to become a golf course, but the failure of the development means that the part of the hill is now being turned into housing as well. Fossils at this locality are characteristic of the older part of the Haslam Formation, including the typical ammonites heteromorphs (Haeuriceras, Eupachydiscus, and the heteromorphs Eubostrychoceras and Glyptoxoceras), and a wide variety of clams and snails. Along with the more standard fare, the exposures here have yielded some rarities, such as the crinoid Uintacrinus and the spiny ammonite Urakawites, which are unknown from most other Haslam localities. Preservation of shell is typically black in colour.

What should I expect? Access to Mount Tzouhalem is good, we can drive to within a few minutes’ walk of the best exposures, but because it is a hillside you should expect to ascend and descend slopes with some significant elevation gain. We will be targeting large piles of boulders created on a few locations on the hillside (because this tends to be where erosion takes place), so you could also be walking on slightly uneven footing. Because there is just so much of the mountain to explore, everyone should be able to find an area to suit them, and for this reason I can recommend Mount Tzouhalem to collectors of all ages and activity levels. Fossils are found in the rock and concretions, so a good hammer or sledge, chisel, and protective eyewear are required. Be aware that this is the site of a former excavation, so you should expect to be walking on rocks and boulders that can be slippery and treacherous.

Why should I come on this field trip? Fossils are not especially common on Mount Tzouhalem, either in the rock or in concretions, but because there is just so much rock exposed here we usually have some finds. The VicPS has been collecting on Mount Tzouhalem for several years, and with excavations no longer occurring there we may not find as much fresh rock as we used to, but there are still many fossils to be found. The diversity of the Cretaceous fauna at this locality, the chance to find a rare or unusual fossil, and the beautiful views of the Cowichan Valley always make Mount Tzouhalem an attractive choice for fall and winter collecting.

Contact: RSVP Jerri Wilkins via the VicPS Facebook page or via email.

Residential building activities present opportunities at Mount Tzouhalem in 2017. Image courtesy Jerri Wilkins.

Newly discovered fish species named after Sooke fossil hunter

As reported by Roxanne Egan-Elliott for the Times Colonist, the fossil found by Steve Suntok in 2014 near Sooke has now been classed as a new genus and species, and named for him.

Suntok found the fossil on a beach northwest of Sooke in 2014. He donated it to the Royal B.C. Museum, and a leading world expert on fish fossils studied the specimen in detail. In a scientific paper recently published, Russian scientist Evgeny Popov concluded the fossil was a new genus and species in the Chamaeridae family, which are cartilaginous fishes that have short rounded snouts and long tapered tails.


Popov named the fish Canadodus suntoki — Canadodus for “tooth from Canada” and suntoki for Suntok.

Times Colonist, Sep. 18, 2020

Congrats to Steve Suntok on this honour!

CBC Radio’s On the Island host Gregor Craigie interviewed Steve Suntok and Marji Johns about this fossil discovery. You may listen to that radio clip here.

A press release, with good images, prepared by Popov, Johns and Suntok may be viewed here. The scientific paper itself may be viewed here.

Sep. 27 Field Trip

When: Sunday, Sept 27, 2020

Where: Chemainus River

Directions: Meet at Helmcken Park & Ride at 9am. Carpooling optional/personal decision; masks must be worn if/while carpooling, social distancing mandatory throughout the field trip.

Exposure: Cliffs along the deep canyon of the Chemainus River expose the black mudstones of the Haslam Formation, an ancient marine environment deposited in the Upper Cretaceous (85MY before present). Fossils can be found high above on the cliff face and loose in the steep piles of scree stretching to river level. Fossil are common in large and small concretions and in situ on this stretch of the river.

Many of the fossils of the Haslam Formation are representatives of extinct animal groups which have no modern counterparts. The ancient Haslam environment was a shallow sea populated by molluscs, fishes, and giant marine reptiles. Some of the fossils, such as clams and snails, are similar to their modern relatives, but others, such as the extinct ammonites, provide an excellent opportunity to explore changing life and environment over geological time.

Contact: RSVP Jerri Wilkins via the VicPS Facebook page or via email.

Field trip planned for July 19

Pandemic limited your digging to your garden? Relief is in sight!

A field trip is planned for the easily accessible Muir Creek by Jerri Wilkins for July 19.  Please read this information about this trip. Note both

  • the COVID-19 instructions to ensure we all stay safe and healthy
  • the need for you to be a paid VicPS member to join this field trip

This Muir Creek field guide prepared by the RBCM with additional info and the photos will help you to identify many of the Sooke Formation fauna.

To participate, please let Jerri know in advance by email or via the Facebook page.

CANCELLED: Canadian Society of Vertebrate Palaeontology 2020 Meeting

COVID-19 update: Meeting Cancelled. This June’s meeting at the RBCM has been cancelled because of Covid-19. We hope to have an update in the fall about next year’s symposium, and people should check https://csvp.ca/ or follow our CSVP’s social media channels for updates.

The 2020 meeting of the Canadian Society of Vertebrate Palaeontology will be hosted by the Royal BC Museum (RBCM), located in downtown Victoria, BC. This event will take place June 6-8, 2020. Please see this circular for details about the event.

Please note that student registration costs have been reduced since the first circular was published.

Oral presentations will be held in the museum’s Newcombe Conference Hall, with poster sessions and breaks in the newly renovated Learning Centre.

Registration deadline is March 15, 2020. You must be registered to submit a presentation or a poster abstract. Full details are in the circular linked above.

AGM March 18: Cancelled Due to COVID-19

UPDATE: Like the Fossil Fair, our AGM and monthly meeting has now been cancelled due to the COVID-19 precautions. No plan to reschedule the meeting until things improve health-wise. The AGM may be held online or via email to meet Society Act rules; more news when we know for certain.

There is no field trip scheduled for March. Stay healthy and practice “social distancing”!

Our Fossil Fair has been postponed/cancelled due to COVID-19.

Our AGM is scheduled for March 18 and it is important that we have a good turnout for election of officers. Our meeting numbers and the relatively large classroom in which we meet suggest we may all keep the health-maintaining recommended “social distance” from each other.

Please respond by email to Tom Cockburn regarding whether or not you will attend the meeting.

Following our AGM, our speaker is Grant Keddie, Archaeology Curator, RBCM.  Grant’s topic is to be announced.

Fossil Fair 2020 latest victim of COVID-19

In keeping with the BC government’s COVID-19 directive of no events in the province with over 250 people, our 24th fossil fair is being cancelled, or possibly postponed, until later notice.   

Swan Lake is in the process of posting notices in the Nature House, and updating their website and Facebook page.  Given the BC government’s province-wide directive, there was really no choice in this matter.  We will try to re-schedule at a later date if the situation changes for the positive.

Nominations for Rene Savenye Award

Perry Poon of the Vancouver Palaeontological Society has asked that consideration be given for presenting the Rene Savenye Award at the July 10-13, 2020, 13th BC Paleontological Symposium at UBC in Vancouver. 

Here are the guidelines, approved by the Board in 2003, outlining the purpose, criteria and process for the Award.  To nominate a person for the award, follow the procedure on the guidelines and send the nomination to Graham Beard no later than March 31, 2020.  This will allow the committee time to review the nominations and, if appropriate, select an award winner.  If an award winner is chosen, the award (usually a big secret) will be announced at the symposium.

Graham Beard of the Vancouver Island Paleontological Museum Society (VIPMS) serves as Chair of the award committee. Graham will establish who is on the award committee.  In the past, the award committee has included some previous award winners, and Jim Haggart has been involved as an advisor due to his past involvement in the award.  The people on the award committee should be perceived as neutral and not as advocates for a particular nominee.

There have been only five previous winners of the Savenye Award – see the BCPA website for details.