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SCOTT SINGLETON

HGMS PALEO SECTION'S "OLD WOODMAN"


Scott Singleton is the Houston Gem & Mineral Society-Paleo Section's resident fossil wood expert. He is married to Eileen Singleton, who often joins Scott on field trips. They have one small child.

Scott has been living in the Houston area since 1979. He joined HGMS in the early 1990s and is active in the Paleo and Mineral Section. Scott has also been the HGMS Show Chairman since 2001. At many Paleo Section meetings, a member brings some fossil wood and turns to Scott to tell them what it is. For many years, various Paleo Section members have advised each other "yeh that looks like petrified wood". No longer, since Scott started identifying wood for members, now Paleo members want to know "what kind of petrified wood is it Scott?".

Scott and many of us use the book "Common Fossil Plants of Western North America" by William D. Tidwell, Ph.D. (click here to go to Dr. Tidwell's biographical page). Fossil (petrified) Wood, to the trained eye, is identifiable, by its internal and external structure--but it is not easy. Fossil wood is even more difficult, but it is possible. The manner in which wood grows and transfers nutrients from the roots to the rest of the tree or plant and likewise transfers food made in the leaves back to the roots and other parts of the plant, have a pattern which is detectable and helps identify a given piece of fossil wood. Perhaps the more readily identifiable fossil wood is "palm wood" which is the Texas State Fossil.

Scott originally joined HGMS to meet other folks with the same hobby, i.e. geology and Paleontology and to participate in field trips. Scott found during field trips that especially in the Eastern part of Texas, there was an abundance of petrified wood. Scott started collecting petrified wood and cutting and polishing it to bring out the features, which are often hidden from view until petrified wood is cut and polished.

After Scott was always being questioned about his petrified wood with inquiries as to the identity of various pieces, Scott decided to brush up on his botany and learn the structures and identifying characteristics of various types of wood. He learned that not many people identify wood by its grain and fewer of those people live in Texas (this field of identification is a relatively narrow field of specialization). Scott dove into the field of paleobotany with specialization in the field of wood anatomy. He had to do much learning on his own, because of the lack of others to help train him.

By 2002 Scott was giving presentations to other Gem & Mineral Clubs. He would show specimens and perform petrified wood identification at meetings and Shows. Scott is a Paleontology docent for the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Presently Scott is working on compiling information on the types of wood found in the fossil record in Texas, with the goal of publishing this data eventually. This will be a significant contribution to this body of fossil knowledge.

In pursuit of this research goal, Scott is having thin section work performed by persons associated with him. He has obtained high power microscopes to analyze these thin sections. Scott is now a member of the International Association of Wood Anatomists, where he is able to check the validity of his work, prior to publication.

Scott is always looking for new localities containing petrified wood in Texas and Louisiana. He tells us he will be happy to investigate new localities and assess the species assemblage of the fossil wood as well as assess the quality of fossilization. This is an essential part of performing research, by continually adding date to the database in order to validate previous conclusions, plus to be on the lookout for new species.

For further information, fossil wood identification services, or to report new fossil wood sites, Scott Singleton can be contacted via eMail at fossilwood@comcast.net or by phone at (713) 664-9033.