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



    It's not so much a matter of being unprofessional - there are
almost invariably more specimens that could potentially be collected
and stored than there is time or resources to collect and/or store
them. So collections are biased by factors such as interest of the
collector (people are more likely to collect the taxa that interest
them specifically), ease of finding and collection (larger specimens
that are more likely to be spotted in the field may be more
represented than micro-fossils), and abundance (rarer taxa tend to be
disproportionately represented in collections - most researchers
would be far more likely to collect something that they haven't seen
before than to pick up e.g. a tyrannosaur tooth that looks at a
glance just like fifty others that they've already seen that day).
Also, biases may arise out of collection method (in terms of
micro-fossils, methods to extract foraminiferans from rock may
destroy any radiolarians, and vice versa), which, again, will largely
be dictated by what taxa the researcher in question is focusing on.
    Once the specimens are actually at the museum, there are further
biases that may affect collection representation. As already
indicated, museums generally receive material far faster than it can
be processed. As a result, usually only a small percentage of the
museum's collection will actually be catalogued and/or databased.
Which specimens in particular are catalogued will, once again, be
influenced very strongly by what taxa the researchers that have
passed through that museum were interested in.
    Finally, space may be an issue. As much as museums may want to be
able to hang onto every specimen that comes into their hands, they
may simply not have the storage space to be able to do so. In such
situations, it is hardly surprising that museums will tend to bias
their choice of which specimens to hang onto towards which ones
appear likely to be more useful and informative.

    Cheers,

        Christopher Taylor

---- Original Message ----
From: Danvarner@aol.com
To: dinosaur@usc.edu
Subject: Re: Fieldwork or bust? (Was: Stenopelix valdensis)
Date: Thu, 13 Jul 2006 22:23:22 -0400 (EDT)

>In a message dated 7/13/2006 10:13:11 PM Eastern Standard Time,  
>df9465@yahoo.co.uk writes:
><< historical collections tend to be biased:  sometimes
>this is because specimens could not be collected, or
>perhaps  weren't noted. modern collecting techniques,
>are of course, much better (in  most cases), but cherry
>picking still occurs in many institutions.  >>
>
>That's a rather serious charge. Do you have any  specific
>institutions you 
>know to be so unprofessional? DV
>