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Re: Stegosaurus preparation photos take two...
A couple of things. You would never find a volunteer EMT doing an
interview with a reporter, we leave that to firemen because they are
left at the scene doing clean up (also on the same team along with
cops). The EMT's stay with the patient until released by a higher
medical authority. Kind of like a preparator releasing the finished
bone to the person doing the systematics. I perceived it was the
"paleontologists" who were making a significant amount of the noise in
this discussion about the level of achievement necessary to be titled
as such. I wouldn't even have responded to this in this forum if it
weren't for the volume. Doctors of any science shouldn't have to make
a fuss because of their obvious position and achievement. BTW, medical
doctors are in the way at an emergency scene because they have not been
trained as a rescuer and make terrible mistakes in packaging victims
for transport (which is what EMT's really do). The versions of cleaned
up and stabilized patient the medical doctor gets make the later
miracles possible but the doctor still gets the credit. My belated
point is that there are different levels of expertise in both fields.
All necessary for the success of the study. The science is the sum of
the whole and perhaps the pinnacle of the study is to publish to peer
review successfully. It is hard to feel completely justified in that
accomplishment when the entirety of the success is occasionally claimed
entirely by the degreed/published few who build on the shoulders and
accomplishments of those who do the dirty work in the trenches. I
don't think any body is claiming to be a Doctor of Paleontology here
who isn't or did I miss a thread? In my experience, you are much more
likely to see that medical doctor in front of the camera claiming the
success that was enabled by the trunk of the emergency response
personnel. Team team team.
I am fascinated by the infinite levels of accomplishment and different
disciplines in paleontology. All the stages from that precocious six
year old to amazing thinkers like S. J. Gould (an evolutionary
biologist), J. Horner (honorary degreed) and even long term
professional academic paleo types fall under the term paleontologist
IMHO. I argue, anyone bitten by the fossil bug denotes a
paleontologist in training, eventually leading by some process to the
aforementioned high achievers. By all reasonable standards, we who
study ancient life in some serious way are paleontologists at some
level by definition. We seem to be in agreement that all the years of
study that a lifelong student of paleontology goes through certainly
justifies some title. How about "paleontological team member" or more
appropriately in most cases "Doctor of Paleontology". The
possessiveness about being called a paleontologist belongs elsewhere,
not in any serious discussion regarding team work which is (I believe)
why this list was started. (sharing information and thoughts) There are
many levels of paleontologists.
Speaking of S.J. Gould. Apparently some here think that a
paleontologist evolves by Gould's theory of punctuated equilibrium. In
other words, saltation of ones position (title) occurs instead of
infinitesimal gradualistic transformations from a non-paleontologist to
a paleontologist. Hummm, I think there are a few gaps in this fossil
record or perhaps it is just the signal to noise ratio that confuses
You are right of course about some collectors not being on the same
team BTW. I have met a few hacks and some of them have advanced
degrees. I would not necessarily consider them paleontologists even
though they have a degree in such.
Just a quick Hell Creek note. The Hell Creek microsites on my ranch
have been very productive this spring though we are too wet right now
to collect very much. Collection season on the Montana/Wyoming border
is underway however with several nice Cretaceous denticulate mammal jaw
sections, a big T-rex tooth a few isolated whole bones and hundreds of
common fossils popping out with just a cursory look about on the
surface. This should be an excellent field season having had a
track-hoe remove overburden last fall making my job much easier. I
already have much more work just on my ranch than I can do in a
lifetime here. Keep checking my website at
http://www.cattleranch.org/pages/730804/index.htm to keep up with the
new material coming out.
My Hell Creek mammal material is going to repository at the Denver
Museum of Nat. Science this fall for Greg Wilson to work with. Hand off
for the team work and all that.
On Apr 26, 2005, at 3:18 PM, firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:
First of all, Frank, please accept my sincere thanks for your work as
an EMT. While I support the importance of basic scientific research,
nothing I will ever do in this field will have the immediate level of
impact and emotional importance that saving lives has. That is truly
I don't, however, think it's entirely fair to suggest that "...there
is an emotional need to make a distinction between a "paleontologist"
and a 6 year old who just found their first fossil. You both are on
the same team. One just has more ego than the other."
I'm not sure it's the paleontologists who are desplaying an ego trip.
For example, imagine (actually, you can probably just use your
personal experience) that you were at the scene of a horrific
accident. And in this case an EMT was being interviewed by a local
television crew. What would the other EMTs have thought, let along the
nurses and doctors, if on the evening news that EMT had kept referring
to himself as a doctor? Like, "In my opinion, as a doctor, I knew the
person would not survive as soon as we arrived on the scene"? Who, in
this case, is displaying an emotional need to benefit their ego? I
don't think it would be the doctors who went through medical school, I
think it would be the EMT who apparently (and wrongly) thought so
little of his job that he or she felt the need to grab a different
professional title to sound more important.
I am happy to be the first to agree that people who dig up fossils are
extremely important to paleontology. It would be awfully hard to do
the science without them. Likewise, fossil preparators are incredibly
important. But if a fossil preparator refers to him or herself as a
"paleontologist" I still think they are the ones trying to inflate
their sense of self worth, not the paleontologists. Worse, it is
belittling the all-important contribution that preparators make.
I have published a few minor papers and made some presentations at
professional meetings, so in theory I would fall under my own minimum
definition of "paleontologist." That being said, I still would feel
uncomfortable using that term to refer to myself in an interview. I'd
use "student of paleontology" until such time as I can contribute more
frequently to the science. In all likelihood this will happen near the
end of grad school for me. On the other hand, with a number of years
of field experience, I can certainly refer to myself as an experienced
field hand (although it's been a few years now, so I'm probably out of
practice). I also have prepped a number of bones, but that was even
longer ago, and I was never terribly skilled at it, so I don't ever
refer to myself as a fossil preparator.
Now, why should fossil collectors of any ilk have the emotional "need"
to call themselves something they aren't? Certainly when the public
hears the term "paleontologist" they think of someone who is a
scientist. Not to sound like I'm picking on fossil collectors either;
we all know that there are some paleontologists don't do much field
work, and I think we'd all think it was equally wierd if they
publically referred to themselves as excavators, expedition leaders,
or field hands.
I do think you hit the crux of the matter when you said "we're all on
the same team." Because, of course, some paleontologists do question
whether all collectors are in fact on the same team as the scientists
are. That's a discussion for another time (and another list), but
surely we can all participate in this debate without some people
asserting they are scientists when they are not, in fact, doing
science? I thought that was just common decency.
Zoology & Physiology
University of Wyoming
Laramie, WY 82070