Worldwide, there are just over 125 Global Geoparks. Each of them create both employment opportunities and tourism draws, while safeguarding history and promoting areas of scientific significance.
Edith Samson is a Co-Chair of DAGI. She explains that “the area around Port Union, Catalina, and Little Catalina has internationally significant Edicarian fossils.”
The area is referred to as the Catalina Dome, and has numerous outcrops with fossil surfaces. “Edicarian fossils were first discovered in Australia, and there are approximately 35 known sites worldwide,” she says, adding that “Newfoundland is one of the most accessible areas to see them in the world.”
Last spring, a paleontologist from UK’s Cambridge University (Emily Mitchell) was on the Bonavista Peninsula, investigating what these ancient fossils can tell us about some of the most primitive organisms captured in fossil form on the planet.
Catalina’s fossils are an astounding 560 million years old, and remain a bit of a mystery. Dubbed both “weird-looking” and “incredibly important” by Mitchell, it’s unclear if these fossils are animals, plants, fungi, or what, but she presumes they hold the key to better understanding the evolutionary origins of animals.
Mitchell has plans to return to the area to do research on another spot DAGI is eyeing for its Global Geopark: Port Union, where a recent discovery of a rare Haootia quadriformis fossil bed has gained international attention. These fossils may be the earliest evidence of animal muscle tissue on earth.
DAGI’s next step is to engage the residents and businesses within the Discovery Aspiring Geopark boundary.
“As we strive for UNESCO Global Geopark status, we will need to draw upon the experiences within our communities to explain how our geological story helped shape the people we’ve become, and how we can work together to protect our assets for generations to come,” says Samson.
With people like Edith Samson eyeing opportunities to further develop the booming Bonavista peninsula, it’s no wonder this rural wonderland is thriving where others are not. If you build it, they will come. Other rural towns are bleeding youth for example, while Bonavista is attracting them. In fact, they just elected their youngest mayor ever in John Norman.