SULLIVAN, OHIO–Last month I gave a talk to the North Coast Fossil Club about an obscure fossil group, the hederelloids. My purpose, besides simply enjoying the good company of fossil enthusiasts, was to show the audience a type of small and encrusting fossil they have all collected but probably didn’t notice because these creatures do not (at least to the naked eye) look very interesting. Sure enough, many in the club remembered seeing these fossils, and some had learned a considerable amount about them. Members began to send me specimens in the mail for further study.
One gentleman, though, told me he had hundreds of hederelloid fossils on Devonian brachiopods and corals collected in Ohio, Michigan and Ontario — and that I was welcome to use whatever specimens I needed to advance the science. Today I visited Brian Bade in nearby Sullivan, Ohio. His collection of these fossils and many more astounded me. He has thousands of specimens, matched with an extensive paleontological library. The fossils are very well curated (that is, we can easily tell the collecting localities and stratigraphic horizons) and expertly prepared. Brian is generous with his treasures and wants nothing more than to see them used in scientific studies. I borrowed several dozen encrusted brachiopods and corals to get started on a hederelloid taxonomy project.
Brian is an excellent example of why amateur fossil paleontologists are essential to the progress of professional paleontology. He has a very keen eye for finding fossils and keeping them in their proper geological context (“provenance”). He instinctively can tell which specimens may be most interesting to science, and he shares with the professionals an appreciation for their beauty and rarity. Brian knows how to work with landowners and quarry managers to make sure access to fossil sites is maintained, which is a skill sometimes lacking in casual collectors. Amateur paleontologists often have far more time for fieldwork than the professionals, and usually have more experience in sorting out particular kinds of fossils in their specialties. Many paleontological studies rely upon the skills of amateurs to provide the raw data. Indeed, “amateur paleontologist” is not quite the right title considering the knowledge base and experience these men and women have accumulated. I prefer to call them simply “paleontologists”.
Hi from up the road at Denison. I completely agree and think that this is a phenomena that extends beyond paleontology. There are a lot of amateur geologists out there who can contribute to the base of knowledge in the field ~ I’ve seen this to be especially true in volcano monitoring with the vast wealth of real time data out there on the internet these days. The more support these sort of people get from the academic community, the better.
Pingback: Wooster Geologists » Blog Archive » Wooster’s Fossil of the Week: The tabulate coral Aulopora (Devonian of northwestern Ohio)
Pingback: Wooster Geologists » Blog Archive » Quality time with a Polish microscope
Pingback: Wooster Geologists » Blog Archive » Wooster’s Fossil of the Week: A tabulate coral (Middle Devonian of New York)
Pingback: Wooster Geologists » Blog Archive » Exploring the Silica Formation (Middle Devonian) in Northwestern Ohio
Pingback: Wooster Geologists » Blog Archive » Wooster’s Fossil of the Week: A spiriferid brachiopod (Middle Devonian of northwestern Ohio)