The public is invited to take a trip back in time to celebrate National Fossil Day at the University of Wyoming’s Geological Museum Saturday, Oct. 18, from 4-6 p.m. The open house is free to all ages.

Visitors can explore mammal and bird skulls -- both modern and fossil -- as well as ancient plants when dinosaurs ruled the earth. There also will be opportunities to learn how paleontologists prepare fossil specimens, and patrons can touch real fossils and participate in self-guided activities. There will be activities for children and the debut of a new interactive exhibit called an Augmented Reality Sandbox that will aid in interpreting topographic maps and watersheds.

“It’s a regular sandbox equipped with an infrared sensor that enables the projection of topographic contour lines and elevation data onto the sand,” says Laura Vietti, museum manager. “When the sand is moved, new contour lines and elevation colors are adjusted accordingly. Holding a hand above the sand surface will generate digital rain.”

Visitors also will be able to enter a contest to name the museum’s new signature coffee blend.

“Our goal in organizing this event is for visitors is to gain a deeper appreciation for the fossil wealth of our state, and a better understanding of how important these fossils are in helping scientists interpret major events in Earth history, including the evolution and diversification of life on our planet,” says Mark Clementz, director of UW’s Geological Museum and an associate professor of paleobiology in the Department of Geology and Geophysics.

National Fossil Day was established to promote the educational and scientific value of fossils. The event first took place in 2010 during Earth Science Week.

For more information, email geolmus@uwyo.edu  or visit www.uwyo.edu/geomuseum.