Thomas Farm is an ideal fossil site for combining research with education. Side-by-side, professional and amateur paleontologists have excavated vertebrate fossils at Thomas Farm for many decades, with great mutual benefit. Because the Florida Museum of Natural History owns and manages the 40-acre property that surrounds and includes the fossil site, the Museum routinely operates programs that teach people from varied backgrounds about the ancient amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals that lived in Florida 18 million years ago. The Museum’s mission is to continue to build the world-class collections of fossils from Thomas Farm, to study and interpret these specimens and to make this knowledge readily available to scientists and the general public.
Thomas Farm is the richest Early Miocene vertebrate fossil locality in North America and perhaps the world. Since its discovery in 1931, fossils of more than 100 species have been found at the site. These species range from tiny frogs, toads, lizards, snakes, doves, cuckoos, songbirds, bats and rodents, to medium-sized species including turtles, tortoises, turkeys, hawks, foxes and badgers, and larger species such as camels, horses and rhinos. By studying these varied species, paleontologists can reconstruct the ancient animal communities of Florida as well as understand the evolutionary changes that have taken place in any given group of organisms.
The fossil site and surrounding property are managed by the Florida Museum of Natural History for research and education. Florida Museum Curator of Ornithology David Steadman has managed the site since 2004, when he took over from Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology Bruce MacFadden. Steadman controls access to the site with Museum vertebrate paleontologists Richard Hulbert and Art Poyer. A couple living in a small house at the site monitors access to the property, which includes a campground, running water and full kitchen.