Trilobites of New York: An Interview with the Rochester
Academy of Science Author
by Anne-Roth Blizzard
of New York" is a newly published, impressive guide to the ever
popular and often elusive fossils prized by collectors.
Three gentlemen with local connections collaborated in
developing and writing the book. Tom Whiteley (retired Associate Director
of Photographic Research at Eastman Kodak) was responsible for most
of the photography and information on Cambrian and Ordovician trilobites.
Carlton Brett (former Geology professor at the University
of Rochester) wrote sections dealing with taphonomy and the paleogeology
of New York.
Kloc, member of the RAS Fossil Section and Geological Technician at
the University of Rochester's Department of Earth and Environmental
Sciences contributed information regarding Silurian and Devonian trilobites.
Additionally, Gerry "prepped" approximately 50% of the trilobites
pictured in the book.
In his younger years Gerry dabbled in entomology, amassing
an insect collection, most of which consisted of beetles, his favourite
bug. Anyone who has been fortunate enough to accompany Gerry on a field
trip can imagine the depths of his youthful enthusiasm in capturing
various shiny beetles.
While studying Mathematics at SUNY Buffalo in the early
1970s Gerry made an auspicious decision to take an elective course in
Physical Geology. He found this interesting enough to register for classes
in Historical Geology. When he happened upon his first trilobite Gerry
thought "WOH! These are like beetles in a rock!" That was
Gerry's epiphany. Those of us who are passionate about our interests
in the natural world are familiar with that moment of pure delight at
first discovering an entity or idea that captures our hearts. Gerry's
insect collection began to suffer from benign neglect...
As his studies in Paleontology progressed and he gained
experience in prepping ammonoids from concretions for his Master's thesis,
Gerry noticed that many fossil specimens were poorly prepared. This
was particularly evident in Moroccan trilobite specimens in which their
free standing spines were manually cemented. Gerry successfully prepped
the first Moroccan 'bite, a Drotops armatus, leaving its spines intact
during the process. His work was a dramatic innovation which earned
Gerry the notoriety that the patience and skill of a gifted craftsperson
In the course of prepping many trilobites over the years
Gerry noticed subtle differences within species such as spine length
and glabella width and shape. He detected that perhaps certain animals
with significant variations had been grouped for the sake of convenience
under one name in species to which they did not appear to belong. Gerry
also discovered that there were many undescribed trilobites in New York
It is Gerry's hope that the work his book represents will
lead to greater clarification of trilobite species classification. The
book contains exceptional photographs. Every type of trilobite found
in New York State is listed. The book includes an extensive glossary,
references and information regarding characteristics of the sea environment
in which each type of trilobite lived. At a recent gathering of the
Fossil Section "die hards", Gerry was heard responding to
questions about various 'bites with a commanding "It's in the book!"
RAS members will attest to the fact that Gerry's enthusiasm
and knowledge regarding trilobites, other fossil creatures and stratigraphy
is both impressive and infectious. He has been inscribing "Trilobites
of New York" for his friends, writing "May this book inspire
you to spend more time collecting trilobites." No doubt it will.