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RE: Fieldwork or bust? (Was: Stenopelix valdensis)



> From: owner-DINOSAUR@usc.edu [mailto:owner-DINOSAUR@usc.edu]On Behalf Of
> John Conway
>
> I suppose it depends on what you mean by a "true" appreciation.
>
> While I can see why it would be important for a /personal/ appreciation
> of the fossil record, I don't see why it would be important to the
> scientific understanding.
>
> Science is an abstraction. Personal contact with it's subject may be
> gratifying or inspiring, but hardly essential to good science.
>
I would add that NOBODY has a complete grasp of the field of paleontology, 
anymore than any zoologist has a complete grasp of all
contexts of a given living species of animal (much less the entire biota!).

So, yes: some of us are better field workers than others. Others are better 
stratigraphers, or sedimentologists. (Hey, just because
someone is good at finding stuff in the field doesn't mean they are actually 
really knowledgable about the science of geology! I
remember at the Black Hills conference last year, where a number of field 
workers were astonished to learn that the boundary between
the Fort Union and the Hell Creek could be different ages at different 
outcrops!).

Some are better anatomists. (Heck, some are better braincase anatomists vs. 
facial bone anatomists vs. vertebral anatomists vs. limb
anatomists).

Some have better expertise at taxonomy. Or systematics. Or phylogeny. Or 
cladistic methodology. (NOTE: these are not the same thing,
and different workers might be better at some or the other).

And I know folks who are really good at descriptive anatomy or of the general 
taxonomic/systematic field seem to have very little
grasp of populational, ontogenetic, individual, or preservational variation. 
(Despite comments in recently-discussed papers, it is
**hardly** cladists alone who are extreme typologists...).

And how about bone histology? Isotope geochemistry? Functional mechanics (and 
all sorts of methodologies spawning off of that)?

How about various types of theoretical biology: paleoecology, life history 
strategies, biogeography, etc.?

And I haven't even mentioned differing abilities in writing, illustrating, and 
other ways of presenting work: also a critical
feature of science.

There is no One Right Way (tm) to be a paleontologist. We all need each other.

                Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.
        Senior Lecturer, Vertebrate Paleontology
Department of Geology           Director, Earth, Life & Time Program
University of Maryland          College Park Scholars
        Mailing Address:
                Building 237, Room 1117
                College Park, MD  20742

http://www.geol.umd.edu/~tholtz/
http://www.geol.umd.edu/~jmerck/eltsite
Phone:  301-405-4084    Email:  tholtz@geol.umd.edu
Fax (Geol):  301-314-9661       Fax (CPS-ELT): 301-405-0796