HALIFAX -- A Nova Scotia woman is encouraging others to get out and explore the province after she made an impressive discovery during her first trip to the Joggins Fossil Cliffs.

Erin Levy was supposed to be on summer vacation in Alberta, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced her to stay in Nova Scotia, where she decided to enjoy a staycation.

Levy went camping at Five Islands Provincial Park and planned a trip to the Joggins Fossil Cliffs on July 3.

The UNESCO World Heritage Site had just reopened on July 1.

“We hadn’t explored that area of the province before, so we went over there and wanted to do a day trip,” says Levy, who lives in Bedford, N.S.

After touring the Joggins Fossil Centre, Levy went for a walk near the beach.

“Up a little ways up to the right were the cliffs, so I got up next to the cliffs thinking maybe there’s cooler things there, and this was honestly just lying in the sand,” says Levy of her find. “So I pulled it out a little bit and saw the two sets of tracks and thought it was really neat.”

Levy soon discovered that “neat” was an understatement for her discovery, which turned out to be a 310-million-year-old fossil.

It dates back to a snapshot in time when Joggins was part of Pangaea, 100 million years before dinosaurs roamed the earth.

“These are fossilized footprints of two different animals,” explains Melissa Grey, curator at the Joggins Fossil Centre.

“One’s an amphibian creature and one’s a millipede, so two very different animals, which is really unusual and, not only that, they are both really beautifully preserved.”

“They were very excited about it,” says Levy. “They identified the tracks in a heartbeat and said it was interesting because the tracks were much smaller than what they were used to seeing for that kind of creature.”

The fossil has captured the attention of experts across the province. It will be researched and may go on display at the Joggins Fossil Centre, but Levy will always be part of its history.

“Erin the fossil finder will go down as the collector, so her name will forever be associated with that find,” says Grey.

Both Levy and Grey say they hope the discovery will encourage more people to explore Joggins and other historic sites in Nova Scotia.

“You do not have to be an expert or a trained paleontologist to find fossils at Joggins,” says Grey. “There’s so many. You actually can’t help but step on them.”

“This was amazing,” says Levy. “We have a ton of history that’s a bit unexplored, so I’m hoping it will just bring more people here to spend a bit more time in Nova Scotia and realize what we have to offer.”