Meet the Fossil Daddy: Teaching Science with Thirst-traps

Saturday March 18, 2023
Originally published on March 9, 2023

 Fossil Daddy
Fossil Daddy  (Source:Instagram)

He calls himself Fossil Daddy, though prefers to keep his real identity under wraps. He is, according to his Instagram, a scientist, and describes himself as a LGBTQA+ Fossil Hunter & Fossil Pokémon Champion, Paleontological Father Figure, Twitch Affiliate/New YouTuber, and Educational thirst traps.

"The queer content creator has nearly 130,000 followers across Instagram and TikTok thanks to his cheeky photos and videos that show him hunting for ancient fossils and clapping back at online trolls in his thick Boston accent," reports the Daily Mail.

In an interview with the HuffPost, the hunky paleontologist posts his educational social media posts with a difference: "They're usually accompanied by his sculpted arms and hairy, tattooed chest." But, as he explains, "I get this comment pretty frequently, not verbatim," Daddy says. "'The thirst traps brought me in, but the education kept me here.'"

Fossil Daddy spends days at a time uncovering ancient fossils that tell the story of how non-human life evolved on Earth. After the trips, and sometimes during, he posts about his findings, the HuffPost writes. "When you split a rock down the middle and you find a fossil, you are the first pair of eyes to ever see this animal — or plant, or whatever it may be — in hundreds of millions of years," Daddy says. "And that never ceases to blow my mind."

@fossildaddy Replying to @derrickforreal3 #greenscreen #paleontology ♬ original sound - Fossil Daddy

But he admits to getting pushback from creationists, which he handles in a frank manner. "They're definitely very threatened by my presence, so maybe I should turn up the TikToks a little bit more," he tells the HuffPost. But it took him time to reach that level of confidence. Once he did, he trolled back, debunking them point-by-point. "If you really, truly believe this, then you're not that bright," Daddy says in one video reply to a creationist.

He traces his love of fossils back to the 1998 video games "Pokémon Red" and "Pokémon Blue." "In the games, you can catch the snail-like creature Omanyte by reviving its fossil. Omanyte is based on real-life ammonites, an extinct mollusk that's one of the most common fossils in the world. 'When I made that connection, it snowballed into a childish obsession of paleontology that just never went away,'" adds the HuffPost.

He earned three three environmental science degrees (a bachelor's and two master's) by 2017. But his lengthy journey through the world of academia left him feeling dejected and craving change. "It's dominated by old white men, and they don't do a whole lot of outreach to other groups who are marginalized," Daddy explained. A 2018 Paleontological Association survey of the field found that more than 85% of respondents were white. "The sciences will die if new demographics don't come in."

Nor did this world embrace his queerness. "Daddy recalls an instance when he got kicked out of a rockhounding group without explanation, only to later find out from an ex-member it was because he 'was a little too gay on Facebook,' " reports the HuffPost. "The incident just emboldened him to be even more unapologetically queer."

"We exist. We're going to take over the space someday," Daddy says. "We're going to turn paleontology into gay-leontology."

This led him to "I wanted it to be something paleontological," he tells me. "But I also wanted it to be kind of cheeky. ... I just figured if I put the two together, that would create the perfect niche audience that I was looking to cater to."

And admits that his thirst-traps are integral to his success. "I think people forget that they love to learn," he tells me. "They go onto these platforms for an entirely different motive, but then they end up staying because they're getting a surprise at the end of it. Nobody goes to Instagram expecting to learn about fossils."

Finding his audience has led to him merchandising his paleontology-related content, which includes Pokémon-inspired "Daddy's Balls" that contain artifacts from his fossil hunts. For more on his merchandising, follow this link.

Check out his Instagrams: