Jim Abbott speaks to Rotary Club about palaeontology project

Abbott speaks of a new scientific find that can change the way we think of our area


Former Kootenay-Columbia MP Jim Abbott made a visit to the Golden Rotary Club on Thursday, August 25 to speak about something he has grown very passionate about.

Trilobites dated at half a billion years old have been found in the East Kootenays and Abbott is full swing into the palaeontology project.

“Unlike other places that have trilobites, these are a wide array and this site is unique to the world because of the fact that they are complete,” Abbott said.

Trilobites are usually found in fragments but the species found in the Bull River area are complete, making them an even more amazing scientific find.

“Where we are now was once the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. When the Rockies were formed, what was on the bottom ended up on the mountains.”

Because Abbott wants the project to stay out of the control of the government, he put Chris Jenkins and Chris New, the fossil finders, in contact with the Burgess Shale Geoscience Foundation and the Columbia Basin Trust.

Found in Yoho, the Burgess Shale Formation is known as one of the world’s largest fossil deposits. This formation was discovered in 1909, about 90 years before Jenkins and New discovered the Bull River area.

Jenkins’ team has used the support from CBT and the Burgess Shale Geoscience Foundation to set up a trilobite research project that is featured at Fort Steele during the summer. Those who take part are given the opportunity to find their own trilobites and if they are not a new species or important to research, visitors can even take them home.

This idea gives visitors the opportunity to become part of science. This fact was proven when a six-year-old boy found a new species that is the only one found in the world.

Abbott said that he believes this research will be able to tell us about our area’s past and better understand what is happening in the present.

“The science can say what the temperature was, the humidity, the precipitation, and if we understand what happened half a billion years ago, we should be able to understand what happened last year.”

This includes understanding climate change and other environmental issues that have risen.

Abbott also hopes that the surrounding school districts will partner with the project in order to teach students about trilobites and offer field trips.

“This project is great for understanding the world.”

Abbott also took a few minutes at the end of his presentation to share with Rotary his respect for Jack Layton.  “We had little in common politically, but that did not deter from the fact that I had a deep respect for him. Jack had a good relationship with other politicians. There is a camaraderie between parties that makes Ottawa work. He was a major contribution and will be missed.”