Re: Noob question
Welcome to our crazy hobby. You are doing quite well so far.
I am a mineral collector and I don't know a great deal about fossils. But, you are correct that you will not find them in slate. The process of metamorphism destroys any fossils that may be in sedimentary rock. And of course there are none in igneous rock.
Slate usually has a thinner, more uniform cleavage than shale. It is also a bit harder and usually shows a nearly flat cleavage surface. Shale is likely to have bedding layers that are uneven and have a kind of muddy appearance. It will smell like mud if it is wet. Look in the shale for fossils, not in the slate.
There is a Rock Key on the Mineralogical Society of America's website. Go to minsocam.org and find the Collectors Corner (I think top right of the home page) and then the Rock Key. The Rock Key is designed for kids and includes a method for telling the major rock types apart. It isn't what a petrologist would use, but it works most of the time.
I wish I could tell you where to look for fossils in your area, but I cannot. There is probably a local club somewhere nearby. Check the club listings here on the Rock Shop. The members could, for sure, tell you where you could find them.
From Don Peck - March 19, 2008 at 17:35:53