Nonnewaug’s Resident Paleontologist, Chris Koemp


Courtesy of Chris Koemp

Chris Koemp will search high and low — wet and dry — in search for his next fossil.

Brian Root, Reporter

WOODBURY — After a hard day of digging and moving heavy stones, Chris Koemp brushes off the dirt and rubble as he discovers another trilobite fossil in the ground. He is relieved to find that he will not be going home empty handed.

Meet Chris Koemp, a senior at Nonnewaug High School. He has many interests, but the one he finds the most intriguing is digging and searching for trilobite fossils. 

“I have known Chris for a long time now, and whenever he finds a new fossil, I always see it on my Instagram feed,” said Klinti Gorka, a friend of Koemp’s. “Chris is a great friend who never fails to make me laugh.” 

Whenever he has the time away from school, he’s on a fossil site digging up the past. Koemp specializes in digging trilobite fossils. This is mostly because they are fairly common in our neighboring states of New York and Pennsylvania.

Trilobites have been found in every continent. Trilobites are extinct marine arthropods that flourished in the Paleozoic Era. The horseshoe crab is a close relative to it, and their ancestors even shared the seas together.

What does Koemp find so enjoyable and fulfilling about fossil hunting? 

One of Chris Koemp’s displays from Penn Dixie Fossil Park in Buffalo, New York. (Chris Koemp)

“The feeling of uncovering something for the first time in a couple hundred million years is what really drives me,” Koemp answered.

Koemp has been interested in fossils for a while and has accumulated a large collection of them over the past couple years.

“I have probably over a thousand individual trilobites by now,” Koemp says.

Not only does he dig and find these fossils, but he cleans them and trades these unique fossils to other trilobite fossil enthusiasts he meets online. 

“The most I’ve sold a single fossil for is about $500,” Koemp said.  “It was a rare species of trilobite.”

While he does what he enjoys he can also make money from it, so it’s a win-win for Koemp.

Koemp, a senior, plans to “take a half-year off to collect fossils across the United States” after graduation this upcoming spring. This planned gap year is anything but a gap, but instead an opportunity to uncover something historic — and maybe even prehistoric.