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Re: Amateurs/Guns-4-Hire

Comments appended below. sys

|                                                                       |
|                 San Diego Natural History Museum                      |
|                          P. O. Box 1390                               |
|                San Diego, California   92112  USA                     |
|             phone (619) 232-3821; FAX (619) 232-0248                  |
|                     email LIBSDNHM@CLASS.ORG                          |
|                                                                       |

On Fri, 10 Nov 1995 Lightwaves@aol.com wrote:

> Hello all,
> In my last posting I suggested a licensing program, for amateurs, possibly
> overseen by the SVP. Sally Y. Shelton, chairperson of the outreach committee,
> informs us that the SVP does not have the resources to take on such a
> project. In no way do I place blame or point an evil finger at the SVP, but
> there has to be a way to get such an effort moving, by someone. Surely those
> of us amateurs that are serious about VP could get accreditation or training
> somewhere, without the need to return to a full academic setting. How about
> you pros forming a committee  to undertake such a licensing program? This
> further contribution the world of VP could return much to the professional
> comunity that may have never imagined, or possible, without qualified amateur
> efforts.

Hey, Roger, you are on a roll. But re-read my original message. I said 
that SVP does not now have the resources to do this....but not that it 
does not want to, or that it thinks it is a bad idea. In fact, this is at 
the heart of the push to get the "Opportunities" brochure out: this way, 
we will have a list of all the programs out there that do offer some kind 
of credit or certification for amateurs and volunteers. There are 
programs that do this already (The Denver Museum of Natural History's 
being the shining example); we found that it will take a lot of work even 
to set up a program to get some kind of SVP "seal of approval" on 
programs because they are so varied. A classroom- and exam-based course 
that works in a metropolitan area like Denver could be a disaster in a 
rural area when people have to come from a very long way away and want to 
spend their very precious time in the field or lab. And now 
we are tossing around the idea of a correspondence course.....If you want 
to see just how super a certification program can be, though, look no 
further than Denver and its graduates at Canon City. For now, we are 
concentrating on getting the brochure out so that people will see the 
variety and diversity of serious paleo training programs, and on getting 
certification standards recognized in the Federal land management system 
(hoping that that will extend to the states by example). We recognize 
that this will constitute a tacit endorsement by SVP and will be careful 
to check the program listings for accuracy. PLEASE get those listings in. 
OK, end of commercial.

> When we participate in a summer dig, when we read every byte of data posted
> here (and elsewhere), or when we strike out on our own to find fossils we
> become better amateur paleontologist. There has to be a way to show that
> directed learning and involvement surpasses the ignorant rock busters that
> are only mildly curious and very destructive to the fossil record.

I couldn't agree more. Another thing we need is some kind of "site 
steward" program to train and recognize community paleontologists who can 
and will take responsibility for monitoring local sites. This idea comes 
from the archaeological community, but, hey, it's not plagiarism, it's 
research. Right? 

> I do realize just how burdened professionals are with their work.
> Restorations, writing papers, supervising field work, and petitioning for
> grants is very much a full time job. I can only speak for myself, an equally
> committed professional digital artist, but I make time to study paleontology.
> This is not a hobby, for me, as I spend many dollars, hours, and emotions
> absorbing all I can about ancient life. I am participating in my second
> organized dig next summer, and will use my skimpy vacation time to do that,
> again! If I could contribute to the support of my family, and dig up dino
> bones, I would trade-in this Macintosh for a shovel today! There must be a
> way to translate this burning love into a recognizable co-occupation, even if
> it is unpaid and non-degreed. The professional community has a nearly
> untapped resource in us amateurs, and pending legislation may eliminate us
> entirely. Is there a way for professionals to take some of us amateurs under
> their wings, and direct us toward serious contribution? An apprenticeship
> program, if you will. Anything would be better than the emptyness and
> confussion reigning now.

Roger, if we lose volunteers like you, we will all be looking for other 
jobs. It is ironic that interest in the field has never been higher, but 
employment opportunities have never been more at risk. Having said that, 
let me point out gently that pending legislation will give amateurs 
more opportunities than they *legally* have now, not fewer. Don't listen 
to the hysteria. And certification training to make it possible for 
responsible amateurs to qualify for Federal permits is being discussed. 
One of the major points in the legislation was that a great deal of 
collecting done in the past is and has been illegal but has not been 
enforced. The legislation attempts to correct that by clarifying restrictions. 
THere is no way that amateurs will be left out of the process. 

> Maybe those of us that go on digs can get letters of reference from team
> leaders. Perhaps when we come to understand dinosaur anatomy well enough to
> ID at least the genus of a bone pile we would be allowed to act as scouts.
> With assistance, patience, and encouragement us amateurs can make an dramatic
> impact.

You are the field, not just bit players in it. We can teach techniques. 
We can't teach passion and dedication. If you are doing this much and are 
not getting the recognition you deserve for it, find out why not. SVP 
passed a responsibilities statement which ethically binds professionals to 
respect and credit responsible amateur contributions. P. S. How's about 
writing up your comments for the next Outreach newsletter??

> Now let me give my feelings on Guns-For-Hire;
> I think the for-profit types should NOT be allowed to work deposits on
> federal land. There is a good deal of private land, rich with fossils, that
> they could make a buck on. The reason for these feelings stem from
> observations of our national forests being turned into arid useless land. IF
> reforestation works, as we are lead to believe, why do we need to cut
> old-growth. Also, there will be strip mine craters that could be
> misinterpreted as impact sites a few millinia down the road, in our (USA)
> deserts. Our governments record for protecting our lands is less than
> desireable, and letting profit motivated diggers loose gives me a chill. I'm
> sure there are many responsible privately sponsored paleontological
> organizations, but there is not sufficent checks and balances in place to
> assure us of continued protection of our fossil resorces. With close
> supervision and a good plan of protection these Guns-For-Hire might fill a
> void that does now exist, but until then my vote says no.

According to the poll sanctioned by the Dinosaur Society, the 
Paleontological Society, and SVP, whose results were released at the Dino 
Society luncheon at SVP last week, 90% of the American public agrees with 

> How about this, as my oath to the paleontological world;
> "I hereby state, without regret or guile, that I will never collect a fossil
> with the intent of profit. Further, I will never intentionally destroy any
> fossil. I will report any finding of fossils that MIGHT be of scientific
> importance. I additionally pledge to record what fossil data as may be
> relevant for the specimens I do collect, and make said fossil and data redly
> available upon the request of ANY interested party. I understand that I will
> never consider any fossil as personal property, and will transfer the holding
> of my collection to another willing to abide by the same pledge, should my
> ability to protect and  preserve them end."

Cool. But I don't want to make people take an oath--it kind of sounds 

> Let's think and talk about it people! If my opinions offend, tell me why. If
> you agree, do so publiclly. Let us act now, and avoid a future loss. Open
> dialogue, and expression of thought, can resolve much. While we read this a
> fossil is turning into gravel!
> Roger A. Stephenson
> lightwaves@aol.com

I'm on your team, and you appear to be on mine, so it must be all the 
same team, right?

Sally Shelton