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Re: Abstracts & Illustrations

G'Day, Wagner,

At 9:32 AM -0600 2/2/01, znc14@TTACS.TTU.EDU wrote:
        Josh Smith wrote:

Rather than repeat the entire text of a rather long email, I will just
 offer my support and state that I feel Norm is 100% correct.  You must
SEE the specimens.  Period.  You must also see the outcrop.

I hate to disagree, especially when it seems that your stance is considered the equivalent of "politically correct" by most "big name" workers. Many "provincial" paleontologists simply cannot afford to visit all the specimens.

Have them shipped to you. Oh, yes. Some of these are too large to be shipped to a researcher.....

 This does mean that certain subjects, such as
systematics, are effectivley closed for to them (you won't
be seeing my hadrosaur dataset until I can personally review most of the
specimens and confirm observations from the literature).

Grant money - travel for research.

 However, it is a
particularly unproductive attitude to expect a paleontologist to see every
specimen of interest, especially for comparative purposes (it also seems
just a shade exclusive).

What!? - do you mean to say that the gorilla-thumb-sized BLOT on my locality diagram, depicting the collection locality, wasn't in *exactly* the spot I was standing in, when I noticed all the bone sticking out of the ground? It isn't good enough for you to find them all and strip the outcrop? ;^) You're joking.

After all, what is the literature for, anyway?

Cures for insomnia, in some cases. Pontification, in others. Good science, in many cases. ;^)

        Another point for you and Dr. King: paleontology is NOT

I'm going to buy you an Expedition Stout, you've just earned it. =)

 There is no way to illustrate a formation, and outcrop
illustrations don't convey the same sort of information. I agree that a
sed/strat study requires a programme of field work. Indeed, I've measured
and mapped and researched all around Big Bend, and I can barely say
anything beyond the four square meters of each of my sites. Not that I
would necessarily have anything to say anyway. :)

You would have something to say; e.g., The Devonian Catskill vertebrate fauna of Pennsylvania looks and tastes exactly like the Devonian vertebrate fauna of Antarctica. Preservation is identical, genera are dead-on matches. I do need to get that manuscript off my desk...

        However, morphological information is interpretable from
illustrations directly (although not always accurately... c'est la
science). I can look at illustrations of bones which I *know*
to be somewhat inaccurate, and make a few simple conclusions. If those
conclusions don't hold up, at least you'll know why. If it is an
important point, I, or someone else, can go and examine the specimen

Sometimes, it is all that you have to go on - especially if the original specimens are lost or otherwise inaccessible.

        There is a skill to interpreting photographs and
drawings, one which (admittedly), not everyone has.

Try interpreting CT Scans! ;^)

 Just because some
people are bad at it doesn't mean everyone is. It is simply insulting
to assume that someone who has not seen the specimen can make no
contribution to its study.

dingdingdingding! You're a quick study, Wagner. ;^)

        As I have posted before, viewing a specimen does not constitute
divine revalation,

No? What do you call that feeling of awe that comes over you then.....

 it is just one step better than using the literature.
Really, if we carry this to its logical extreme, we should also discount
the work of stupid people, even if they have seen the specimen.

Define "stupid people" for me, would you? <GRIN>

 Is that a
reasonable approach?

I am so glad there was no Faculty Luncheon today. This is entertaining!

 Sure, in an ideal case, where we all had money coming
out of our rear ends and we could afford to jet off to Lower Slobovia
to see a new monkey finger before the deadline for our next paper, we
would do so.

Manage your portfolio, Wagner. It will come. ;^)

 Unfortunately, I don't think even you, Josh, can always do
this. At least, if you can, I want your budget and your schedule! :)

Write your own grant, Wagner. Winning is not how you run the race, it is in where you entered the competition.

        Upshot (not specifically for Josh and Dr. King, but for everyone):
consider the scope of the study, and the resources of the worker, before
you go disparraging on the value of their contributions. And, for
gosh's (if not Josh's) sake, illustrate as much as you can afford to!

Camera lucida still works, so does employing an excellent artist. For example: Probably, one of the most informative books of illustrations I have ever seen, was Aggasiz' published illustrations of the Devonian vertebrates. Everything was drawn to scale, the color of the red rock was matched with water colors, perfectly. Anything that was was coated with pyrite, was tinted with gold leaf. It was ...... a religious experience, to open that volume (1 of 5 in the world) and sit at the table and compare my specimens to his illustrations.

Marilyn W.
                        =00=  =00=  =00=  =00=
                        Marilyn D. Wegweiser, Ph.D.
                Adjunct Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology
                     Cincinnati Natural History Museum

Assistant Professor of Geology
Department of Geology                   mdwegweiser@bsu.edu
Ball State University                   Office: 765-285-8268; 765-285-8270
Muncie, Indiana                         FAX:    765-285-8265