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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 me.

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.

Frank Bliss MS Biostratigraphy Weston, Wyoming

On Apr 26, 2005, at 3:18 PM, dinoboygraphics@aol.com 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 awesome.

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.

Scott Hartman
Zoology & Physiology
University of Wyoming
Laramie, WY 82070

(307) 742-3799