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



All true.
I do think, however, that occasionally participating in a paleo dig is
beneficial to everyone involved in the earth and biological sciences.  As
a geologist, I have had many paleontology Eureka! moments, and I can
assure everyone that none of those moments occurred in a museum setting.
(I'm not denigrating museums, but field discoveries tend to energize me
more).

Everyone, from computational biostatisticians to paleohistologists and
even infidel geologist slobs like me, can benefit from spending a week
crawling around in the dirt with a brush and dental pick in hand.  This
doesn't need to happen every season, but it should be done occasionally,
in order to clear one's head.  Experiencing fresh air and near heat
stroke is the closest that most of us will ever come to experiencing a
vision quest. 

<pb>
--
Nesciamus, non attingamus

On Wed, 12 Jul 2006 09:40:47 -0400 "Thomas R. Holtz, Jr."
<tholtz@geol.umd.edu> writes:
> > 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
> 
> 
>