Burgess in Book

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Prairie du Chien’s Phil Burgess holds a copy of “Stromatolites: Ancient, Beautiful, and Earth-Altering.” (Photo by Ted Pennekamp)


Local rock collector part of new book

By Ted Pennekamp


A Prairie du Chien rock collector is featured in a new book “Stromatolites: Ancient, Beautiful, and Earth-Altering.” 

“The book is technical but easy to read, has nice photos and a great deal of information,” said Phil Burgess, one of the most avid rock, agate and fossil collectors in the Midwest. Phil is friends with authors Bruce Stinchcomb and Bob Leis and provided them with information about Wisconsin stromatolite occurrences. Phil and his large collection are mentioned briefly in the book, and a photo of Phil, taken in the fall of 2014 in his back yard, is on page 156.

Phil said that stromatolites are fossilized, laminated sedimentary rock structures produced by various microbial life forms in both fresh and marine waters. Diverse, attractive and sometimes puzzling, fossilized stromatolites often present striking patterns.  “Their record goes back billions of years,” he said. “And, they are still being formed today.” 

Phil said that Stinchcomb and Leis have collected and studied stromatolite fossils for many years and their book presents a description of these fascinating fossils in layperson’s terms, which makes for excellent reading for everybody. He said the book also has an abundance of sharp, color photographs of stomatolites from around the world. 

“Prairie du Chien sits right in the heart of one of the most prolific stromatolite collecting areas in the world,” said Phil who noted that the Upper Midwest is the focus of many specimens, and the book describes collecting locations in detail. 

Phil said that several rock houses in the Midwest are constructed of stromatolites. He also noted that stromatolites are currently the focus of intense study by NASA in their search for life on other planets.

In addition to the writing of Leis and Stinchcomb, the book features the illustrations of Terry McKee. Leis has been a stromatolite enthusiast for the last 17 years. He and his wife Linda have traveled across the country and overseas to collect and photograph stromatolites. Bob owns a collection from around the world of more than 700 stromatolites and rocks of biogenic origin. Stinchcomb is a retired professor of geology at St. Louis Community College and an exploration geologist. Dr. Stinchcomb has often worked with geologic mapping and/or mineral exploration in remote areas where stromatolites were a part of the local geologic picture. McKee, an active paleo-artist, began his interest in art as a boy and developed his self-taught skills into adulthood. His perceptive studies of nature and college education in zoology and geology have all helped enable him to bring fossils to life in his paintings. 

 “The wealth of information, the easy reading and the great color photos make this a great coffee table book,” said Phil.

“Stomatolites: Ancient, Beautiful, and Earth-Altering,” which was published in September of 2015 by Schiffer Publishing, can be ordered online at Amazon.com.

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