Ribbon-cutting ceremony set April 30 for Coon Creek Science Center

MARTIN, Tenn. – The University of Tennessee at Martin and the UT Martin McNairy County Center/Selmer will host an invitation-only ribbon-cutting ceremony for the newly acquired UT Martin Coon Creek Science Center at 11 a.m., Friday, April 30. University of Tennessee and UT Martin officials, including President Randy Boyd and Chancellor Keith Carver, will attend the event. A public opening is planned this summer.

As one of the most important fossil sites in the U.S., the UT Martin Coon Creek Science Center is a 70-million-year-old exposed seafloor deposit that is home to almost 700 preserved marine species. The 240-acre property was acquired by lease in April 2020 by the university from the Pink Palace Family of Museums in Memphis after years of partnership for institutional field research, community outreach and instruction.

“The ribbon-cutting ceremony is the first official step to opening a new phase in the history of science at the site,” said Dr. Michael Gibson, science center director and UT Martin professor of geology. “From this point forward, UT Martin will oversee the application of newer methods of conservation and study, along with expanded education. We will cut the ribbon and officially unveil what we’ve been working on and that has been 72-million years in the making.”

“Everything at the Coon Creek Science Center is hands-on. You don’t just talk about it, you experience it.”

The science center will host numerous educational programs year-round, including UT Martin faculty and student research opportunities, classes and internships, external geoscience professional and field training, educator training, summer camps and more. Visitors of all ages and professions can receive hands-on experience learning how to carefully find and extract fossils.

A fossil found at Coon Creek

“Everything at the Coon Creek Science Center is hands-on. You don’t just talk about it, you experience it. Unlike most places, most of the fossils you dig up here, you get to keep, which includes one of the state symbols: the state fossil, the Pterotrigonia thoracica, or a pearly brooch clam, which was a UT Martin initiative,” Gibson said. “We want people to know that we are open and available, so come experience being a paleontologist for a day.”

Courses taught at the center include, but are not limited to paleontology, geology, forensic geology, oceanography, ecology, astronomy and climatology. The property is managed by the UT Martin McNairy County Center/Selmer.

For more information about the event or the Coon Creek Science Center, contact the UT Martin McNairy County Center/Selmer at 731-646-1636.