My 8th grade science fair project of extracting fossil pollen from coal caught the attention of the local science
museum in Portland, which ran a science research center for high school students. The paleo wing was run by David Taylor, who suggested that I pursue my interest in the nearby marine Keasey Formation. We visited the
legendary Mist crinoid locality my first exposure to crinoids and I was immediately hooked and fascinated. Thus,
instead of attending sockhops and football games, I spent my high school afternoons and weekends obsessed, crawling all over NW Oregon looking for echinoderm fossils, or working at an S. S. White sandblaster that
threatened to give me chronic bronchitus! Summers all of us headed to the Hancock Field Station in Eastern Oregon where we dug up large Eocene vertebrates (boring....), and enjoyed the 60's a few years late. Hancock
became the center of our universe and community. Everyone called me "Crinoid".
My college advisors frankly told me there was no point in continuing my echinoderm
obsession. I should have gone elsewhere, but at PSU, a geology student was basically trained to find oil for the oil companies (not what I wanted to pursue, especially as a
militant bicyclist!), so I went after other interests in and out of school and eventually created a career as a self
employed maker of wind instruments, such as wooden flutes and unusual species of bagpipe. My paleontology interests waned, especially as I moved farther away from NW Oregon. During that time, unfortunately, the Mist
locality was more or less illegally mined for commercial purposes I should have been paying more attention and any thoughts of returning to this fascination seemed remote.
Eventually, my family and I moved outside of Seattle. A few years later, a group called the Northwest Paleontological Association formed and met at the Burke Museum at UW. I quickly found myself involved as the
Association's newletter editor. Through field trips, contacts and access to the Burke's underbelly as a volunteer, I
began to explore western Washington's paleontology avocationally, as well as reexploring NW Oregon's. One day,
while examining a Keasey Formation locality that had produced a largish (20cm) isopod, my wife Nancy stumbled upon a very nicely preserved spatangoid. Further collecting produced several more.
Liz Nesbitt, curator of invertebrate paleo at the Burke, suggested that I contact her friend Rich Mooi at CAS, who
kindly took me under his wing to study these together, and to provide me with some necessary guidance and instruction. This was just the beginning, and was the rekindling of my fascination with these wonderful
echinoderms. Since then, we have been working on several fronts together, and have enjoyed several great
moments of wit, repartee and friendship. Our first paper, "An Overview of the Eocene Oligocene Echinoderm Faunas of the Pacific NW", is currently in press.
I very much enjoy this experience of riding the fence as an avocational paleontologist, working with fellow amateur
collectors who have provided me with several important specimens (all of which will end up in appropriate repositories!) or assisted in the field, and with professional paleontologists and biologists who graciously
recognize the passion, value and legitimacy of my activities.
Casey Burns Wind Instrument Maker and Occasional Paleontologist
9962 Shorty Campbell Road Kingston WA 98346 USA
Casey Burns has contributed additional "unusual" echinoderm images that can be found in