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Ilja's note



I would like to thank Ilja for his comments on my post. I
had the pleasure of meeting him at SVP, first during a great
field trip (thanks Ken!) where we got to stand on the sacred
ground where my Museum's Allosaurus, Ceratosaurus and the
roadkill Stego came from. He later gave a great talk. I have
to disagree a little with his post, however. Yes indeed much
of paleo (and natural history in general) has now become
more jargonized and, in a perfect world, everyone would be
doing their research full time. However, most of all the
professionals doing this have little time to do the research
during normal "business hours". The exception is with a
small number of Museum paleontologists and a few academics
with relatively sweet positions with low teaching loads.
That describes very few dinosaur types I know however. Even
those I just mentioned will cite long hours on
administrative crap and committee work as sucking hours
away. We have curators who come in at 4 or 5 in the morning
to get the research done before the phone starts ringing.

Instead, we all stick our research in when we can and,
frankly, most of us can still generate worthwhile stuff and
can keep up with the jargon. That's why I think many should
go the extra couple years to do some graduate work in the
area they love, so they can finalize their training as much
as possible - then they can do the extra hours, if they are
pushed to do so, to do some research. Having part time to do
research does not imply the brain is part time in its
ability, although I know this was far from Ilja's
implication. Having some full time people is important to
get facilities set-up and facilitiate the whole research
process in some institutions, but those with less time can
contribute still and will continue to do so.

Also, when I suggest warping your environment - something I
say easily since I tend to do massive numbers of
multivariate analyses and monte-carlo simulations where I
warp environments all the time - it does not necessarily
imply all will be doing primary research with that time.
Every paleo pro knows the tremendous contributions made by
the community in helping in field work, prep, being a
docent, etc. For many, this will be exactly what they want
to contribute and it is great and probably a lot less
frustrating than research can be at times.

Anyway, the point was and is that many of us are passionate
about paleo and want to contribute as much as possible and I
would suggest getting as much training as possible if you
are so pushed. The Denver Museum, as well as some other
institutions, has a wonderful training program that would
suit many and more standard graduate school training at
various levels will do it for others. Just don't give up on
making a contribution even if you realize you won't be a
Harvard professor. most wouldn't enjoy it anyway if they
were. Besides, we all know how many of the best fossils are
found by those other than the head professional on most
field expeditions. He or she is probably doing more
administrivia, or interviews, or is just stressed in general
and relies on others to do the neat or fun stuff. I know the
Triceratops project here would be far less along without my
3 interns.

Anyway, sorry about the length.

Ralph Chapman