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Re: Cooperation between amateurs and professionaly...



Just a few thoughts here.

Amateurs have made a large number of discoveries, some
quite amazing, within the fields of paleontology. All
intelligent professionals greatly value the contribution of
amateurs and work with them when they have the chance. I
will be giving a talk to a group of very active ones, who
make lots of neat finds, at the Calvert Marine Museum a week
from Saturday and am greatly looking forward to it. 

I suspect a number of our subscribers to the list are very
active amateurs that have made very significant
contributions. I know of one off hand, for example, is Ray
Stanford. When his material is described in full ( Ray will
make the decisions as to who will do this) it will (and
does) represent one of the most important collections of
East Coast dinosaur material ever made. Period. I hope he is
only like 0.5% done with amassing it because every time he
goes out, something special seems to happen and I'd like to
see him go out a few million more times.

I assume some, hopefully a very small percentage, of my
professional breathern can be a might arrogant when dealing
with amateurs but there are always some bad apples in any
group and I suspect this can be more a bad reaction to not
having enough time to do everything. I started in
invertebrate paleontology and the relationship there was
also very good, as it should be. I hope to be more active in
working with amateurs over the next five years. After all, I
started as one. Dave Bohaska and Bob Purdy of the NMNH
travel to the fossil fairs in the Carolinas a lot and have
great relationships down there. Jerry Harasewych, one of our
malacologists, has great relationships with groups of shell
collectors.

As for credit, this is a bit of an odd thing in
paleontology and the sciences in general just in how this
can be manifested, but here at NMNH we always have the
collector, if known, as permanent information for that
specimen. As part of the description of, at least, major
specimens, the circumstances of the collection of it are
important and certainly should explicitly include the person
who found it. The circumstances of the collection should
also be included in press releases and, purely for selfish
reasons, the collectors should be mentioned here because it
is a more interesting story to the press if the amateur is
the one who found it. So the press impact is bigger. The Sue
stuff is an example of the finder being up front in all
aspects of the press coverage and I assume the collection
will be mentioned in the monograph. Often, taxa are named
for the people who found the specimen (if it is new). When
we open a new exhibit that includes a donated specimen, the
people who donated it typically come to the opening and are
acknowledged. That's about what professionals can and do
do.

As I have mentioned before, I always encourage people who
are crazy about paleo to go down the academic path as much
as circumstances allow, even if this does not lead to
anything to do with the way they earn their living. [As an
aside, remember that many of those paleontologists with jobs
teach anatomy at medical/dental schools and their research
is not involved much or, at times, at all, with this
teaching]. I suggest this because there is a singular
pleasure in gaining an advanced knowledge in a subject such
as paleontology - of both information and in ways of
approaching data critically - that can be very fulfilling
and can help everyone improve in their chosen area of
interest. The job market is awful but I'm talking here about
doing it for personal reasons, not expecting big bucks at
the end of the rainbow (I wish).

So, the pros I know treasure amateurs and only wish to work
with them to optimize the results of their work for
everyone. Amateurs make huge contributions and the
cooperation should be significant.

Ralph Chapman

Ralph E. Chapman
Applied Morphometrics Laboratory
National Museum of Natural history
ADP, EG-15  NHB, 10th & Constitution, NW
Smithsonian Institution
Washington, DC 20560-0136
(202) 786-2293, Fax: (202) 357-4122
Chapman.Ralph@nmnh.si.edu