Kurt Geiger: Traveling fossil educator
Rolling them bones
Kurt Geiger was working as gallery supervisor and science educator at the Gateway Science Museum in Chico last year when it opened its doors free to the public for several months after the Camp Fire. Along with his son Carter, who was a volunteer at the museum, Geiger noticed the attention fossils were drawing from guests and started thinking about a career move. After some discussion, the father-son duo decided to go for it and start their own traveling fossil company. Since February, they’ve been visiting schools—starting with those displaced by the Camp Fire—bringing fossil specimens that students wouldn’t normally see outside of a museum. Next month, Fossils on Wheels will hold its first presentation in Paradise at Paradise Ridge Elementary.
How many presentations have you done so far?
I think when we do [our presentation] at the new elementary school up in Paradise—the one built in Paradise to replace the others—that will be No. 40. That’s a really fun one for us. I did a lot of work with Camp Fire kids after the fire at the museum, and so getting to go up there and work with the kids up at that school will be really special. We just had one up in Redding; we did eight classrooms and four presentations. It was really cool to get to travel and do this.
What do you enjoy most about this work?
We see the kids drawing the dinosaurs as we’ve been talking about them, and that means a lot. We know we are giving these kids something that means something. You know, these kids may never have another opportunity to hold a T. rex tooth or check out a Triceratops fossil or any of the other dinosaurs we have.
What’s your business model? Where do you get your fossils?
It’s very low overhead. We don’t have a lot of expenses. Gas, buying displays and such, but that’s not very expensive.
The fossils come from a variety of places. Some of them are purchased, a few are self-collected and a lot of them have actually been given to us by other collectors and paleontologists that we’ve met through an internet forum called The Fossil Forum.
Do you have a favorite fossil?
So this all started because [we’re] pretty much shark nuts. And we don’t live by the ocean, so you don’t often get to talk about sharks in Chico unless you go back in the fossil record. Everybody always wants to know about Megalodon, so we bring in some pretty good-sized Megalodon teeth—we have two that are both over five inches, and we use them to explain the different adaptations of sharks and how the specific shape of teeth were related to what they ate.
How often do you do presentations?
We’re starting to book a good number of programs for the spring. It’s pretty sporadic right now. It comes in bursts. We kind of figured with Thanksgiving break and then winter break right after that it would be kinda slow, but as it turns out we’re keeping pretty busy. It also depends on teachers’ lesson plans and what time they want us.