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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
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 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.
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
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.
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."
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