Jump to content

Why Do Some Paleontologists Discourages Private Fossils Collection?


Melissawow

Recommended Posts

I've met some paleontologists who insisted that we should not own any fossils as private collection. They claimed that all fossils no matter how common or rare even a Knightia or Elrathia trilobite should not be kept privately by anyone but instead goes to a museum for research and studies. Another reason they said is fossil collection gave rise to unlawful personals who destroys the site and shooting down scientists who enters the quarry for studies.

Hence, any genuine fossil materials should be handed over to paleontologists for investigation and we should only own casts and replicas not the original. By buying a cast, the money will be funded for scientific researches and buying replicas is a way to support and not destroy science.

So I personally wants to know from your opinions should we not own any genuine fossils despite they are relatively common?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Melissa,

As always in this life, things are not black or withe, there are a lot of colours.

Will be the common sense who will find the balance between the interests of both groups.

Not all the palaeontologists are like the ones you met, and not all the collectors are destroyers.

I could extending a lot, but my low level of english expression could be misleading.

Some paleontologists have bad faith and some fossil collectors or sellers should be in prison, but those are the extremes, between them there is a majority of very correct people.

Common sense is the key.

Have a nice sunday.

:)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My thoughts on this are that, if left many fossils will be lost to science, and if collected by amateurs with the properly documented information attached, they could be used by science if the collection is donated after the collector dies.

Common fossils sold such as Knightia and Elrathia are so numerous, that their scientific value is negligible. I don't believe they should not be collected or sold. But when I think of the fossils weathering away to nothing, and the scientists objection to collection by amateurs, I can see no point in the loss of potentially scientifically important fossils to mother nature, just because the scientists are afraid we will do it wrong!

I think the best result, being that there are relatively few paleontologists, and lots of amateurs, would be the embrace of science to the collecting of fossils by amateurs, and instructional courses taught by professionals so that we do collect properly, and anything we may find can be documented properly, kept by the collector if common or of little scientific value, and donated if deemed necessary. I think that would be a win for everyone.

The private sector has more means and time and resources than the pro- paleontologists, and the cooperation would benefit all.

Regards,

    Tim    -  VETERAN SHALE SPLITTER

   VFOTM.png.f1b09c78bf88298b009b0da14ef44cf0.png    VFOTM  --- APRIL - 2015       MOTM.png.61350469b02f439fd4d5d77c2c69da85.png      PaleoPartner.png.30c01982e09b0cc0b7d9d6a7a21f56c6.png.a600039856933851eeea617ca3f2d15f.png     Postmaster1.jpg.900efa599049929531fa81981f028e24.jpg        IPFOTM -- MAY - 2024   IPFOTM5.png.fb4f2a268e315c58c5980ed865b39e1f.png

_________________________________________________________________________________
"In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks."

John Muir ~ ~ ~ ~   ><))))( *>  About Me      

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think that advocating a total ban on private collectors is a sign of poor upbringing on the part of the advocates' parents.

#1 it is selfish, they only consider their own careers and needs.

#2 it is foolish, the cost of enforcement would outstrip the entire cost of public support of paleontology

#3 it is ridiculous, I find ammonites, horn corals, even fish fossils in common building stones in building facades, One of my best trilobite hunts in New York was in a large quarry that crushes the rock down to gravel for road construction. Phosphate mines around the world destroy more fossils than all the private collectors combined

#4 it is self-destructive, many important finds were by amateurs, in fact, paleontology was started by amateurs. My own son has deposited a fossil in a museum collection. I have one that I am considering donating. I promise you that those fossils would not have ever been found if we weren't looking for shark teeth, and we wouldn't be looking if we couldn't keep them. When I hear of professional paleontologists advocating a total ban on private collecting, It makes me much less inclined to donate.

#5 it is impractical, If I showed up today with my entire collection at almost any museum in the world they would not accept it. Many of the fossils were found on beaches or in streams. The exact strata is lost. Many others were collected when I was a child and do not have good locality information (neither do some really famous fossils in collections, I know) and they just do not have the time or funds to catalog and store tons of loose shark teeth, elrathia, or green river fish.

#6 it is arrogant, why is their use of the fossil more valid than mine? I derive great pleasure and joy from my collection, I share it with everyone I can.

I have to question the mental, logical ability of any scientist foolish enough to think a total ban is a good idea. Do ichthyologists suggest that every fish caught should go into museum collections? Would ornithologists want every dead bird? Maybe anthropologists think humans shouldn't own any artifacts? Really ridiculous, isn't it. I would really try to make sure my tax money did not go to a person that thinks in this way since I'm not sure I would trust their scientific conclusions either. All the professional paleontologists I have met are more reasonable than this and I hope they can still train and educate their fringe fanatic colleagues. I know some who would not want any fossils sold commercially. We also have a responsibility to be good citizens and not destroy sites, donate the important finds and work together with the ethical, reasonable professionals.

  • I found this Informative 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Why burnout the flame of a amateur collector? Amateur collectors have made some of the best fossil discoveries to date that have been priceless to science.

I thought i'd make my point short and sweet. Good topic.

Edited by fossilized6s

~Charlie~

"There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why.....i dream of things that never were, and ask why not?" ~RFK
->Get your Mosasaur print
->How to spot a fake Trilobite
->How to identify a CONCRETION from a DINOSAUR EGG

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am lucky, I live in a country where sensible collecting and cooperation is, for the most part, encouraged. It always amazes me the conflict between "professionals" and "amateurs" in other countries. If the amateurs were not allowed to keep what they find most wouldn't look after them so carefully and so things would be lost to science. It is one of the duties of the more experienced to pass on knowledge so we can all work together.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I wonder whether those so adamantly opposed to amateur collecting fail to appreciate the essential contributions to science that their efforts generate?

"There has been an alarming increase in the number of things I know nothing about." - Ashleigh Ellwood Brilliant

“Try to learn something about everything and everything about something.” - Thomas Henry Huxley

>Paleontology is an evolving science.

>May your wonders never cease!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Melissa,

You can see from the answers to your post that there are many excellent reasons to allow private collecting. I myself have donated many specimens to the Canadian Museum of Nature, and to the collections of the Geological Survey of Canada. I have discovered new species and even genera, and these specimens are now in museum collections. Just last weekend I introduced University of Georgia paleontologists to some Cambrian sites they would never have discovered on their own, as they were not even looking in that area. None of that would have happened if it was illegal for me to collect.

This is purely an anecdotal comment, but I can generally tell professional paleontologists (at least invertebrate paleontologists) who started collecting as kids, as they have a certain passion and love of their research. While this is not universally true, paleontologists who took up the field as adults seem to have more of an "it's a job" mentality.

The next time you encounter a paleontologist who expresses the opinion of private collecting you described in your post, ask them this question. Some people are not very good drivers, speeding excessively, disregarding traffic signals, and even driving while drunk. According to the logic of the paleontologists you spoke to, all people should therefore be banned from driving or owning cars, and we should all have to take a bus or taxi when we need to go somewhere. If we want, though, we can buy plastic models of cars. Ask them if they are willing to give up their car and driver's license.

Don

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think that advocating a total ban on private collectors is a sign of poor upbringing on the part of the advocates' parents.

#1 it is selfish, they only consider their own careers and needs.

#2 it is foolish, the cost of enforcement would outstrip the entire cost of public support of paleontology

#3 it is ridiculous, I find ammonites, horn corals, even fish fossils in common building stones in building facades, One of my best trilobite hunts in New York was in a large quarry that crushes the rock down to gravel for road construction. Phosphate mines around the world destroy more fossils than all the private collectors combined

#4 it is self-destructive, many important finds were by amateurs, in fact, paleontology was started by amateurs. My own son has deposited a fossil in a museum collection. I have one that I am considering donating. I promise you that those fossils would not have ever been found if we weren't looking for shark teeth, and we wouldn't be looking if we couldn't keep them. When I hear of professional paleontologists advocating a total ban on private collecting, It makes me much less inclined to donate.

#5 it is impractical, If I showed up today with my entire collection at almost any museum in the world they would not accept it. Many of the fossils were found on beaches or in streams. The exact strata is lost. Many others were collected when I was a child and do not have good locality information (neither do some really famous fossils in collections, I know) and they just do not have the time or funds to catalog and store tons of loose shark teeth, elrathia, or green river fish.

#6 it is arrogant, why is their use of the fossil more valid than mine? I derive great pleasure and joy from my collection, I share it with everyone I can.

I have to question the mental, logical ability of any scientist foolish enough to think a total ban is a good idea. Do ichthyologists suggest that every fish caught should go into museum collections? Would ornithologists want every dead bird? Maybe anthropologists think humans shouldn't own any artifacts? Really ridiculous, isn't it. I would really try to make sure my tax money did not go to a person that thinks in this way since I'm not sure I would trust their scientific conclusions either. All the professional paleontologists I have met are more reasonable than this and I hope they can still train and educate their fringe fanatic colleagues. I know some who would not want any fossils sold commercially. We also have a responsibility to be good citizens and not destroy sites, donate the important finds and work together with the ethical, reasonable professionals.

I could replace the word fossils each time it's used in this post with Indian artifacts and it would sum up exactly what's happening in Florida right now! If they can take your right to collect out of context artifacts, they can take fossils as well....where does it end? Great post by the way!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I could replace the word fossils each time it's used in this post with Indian artifacts and it would sum up exactly what's happening in Florida right now! If they can take your right to collect out of context artifacts, they can take fossils as well....where does it end? Great post by the way!

Thank you. I think both fossils and artifacts need to be protected, but total bans on ownership are not the right answer for either situation.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I live and fossil hunt in Florida and I think that "Native American Artifacts" and Fossils are different cases. Native American artifacts are tied up in previous destruction of native American burial sites, ancestor rights, politicians, and controlled by Archeologists.

Fossil regulations on state lands are controlled by Paleontologists and specifically Richard Hulbert, a Professor of Paleontology and head of the Vertebrate Research lab at University of Florida. Richard is a good person, very reasonable, a TFF member, and the individual who grants the Florida Fossil hunting permit.

Under the Florida regulations, the permit is renewed yearly, you must document any/all mammal related fossil finds, and Richard has the legal right to appropriate any scientifically significant find. He has only done this once in the life of the program, choosing instead to encourage fossil hunter to donate significant finds. Search for "Rhizosmilodon fitae" to see a successful example.

Richard constantly lectures at Fossil Shows and Fossil clubs making strong connections with amateur fossil hunters.

The fact that there are Paleontologists who have outlandish and foolish views does not bother me as long as we have some one like Richard Hulbert in charge. Jack

The White Queen  ".... in her youth she could believe "six impossible things before breakfast"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yeah, are these "ban private ownership" paleontologists really suggesting that landowners shouldn't be allowed to collect and keep fossils from their own land? Or let other amateurs in to collect? Somehow, I don't see that getting far legally.

Shellseeker, I don't know about Florida artifact collecting, but I do know of several places here in NY where artifacts have been found by farmers walking through the fields after plowing. Yes, there must at one time have been a site with archaeological potential there, but after a few years of plowing? You'd have to dig deeper to find any in situ material, if there's any left. I think the archaeological community would be more interested in undisturbed sites.

The people I know in that field (my cousin and his wife) work on exploratory digs in places that are about to be dug up for construction. I haven't asked his opinion of private collectors, but he knows I have a small collection of points, and he's happy to talk about what he's found on his digs.

I certainly can understand and respect the native community wanting their ancestral burial sites left undisturbed. I can also understand the archaeologists wanting to minimize treasure hunting in potentially interesting sites. But, I think (and I could be wrong about this) both communities have little interest in artifacts that have already lost their context.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

What I'm referring to are the artifacts that are completely out if context....heck I find shark teeth, bottles, and arrowheads all laying next to each other on the same gravel bars. I am completely against disturbing and burial sites or anything close to it but as mentioned earlier there are a few individuals that could care less and ruin it for all of us. Luckily I live and hunt in Alabama where it is still legal to hunt on private property (for now) but once one state changes the law who's to stop the rest of the states from following suit. Luckily I get to find artifacts while I'm hunting fossils but sadly I don't see my children being able to follow in my foot steps.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

...Luckily I live and hunt in Alabama where it is still legal to hunt on private property (for now) but once one state changes the law who's to stop the rest of the states from following suit...

No such slippery slope exists; collecting artifacts on private property (with permission of the land owner) remains legal in Florida.

"There has been an alarming increase in the number of things I know nothing about." - Ashleigh Ellwood Brilliant

“Try to learn something about everything and everything about something.” - Thomas Henry Huxley

>Paleontology is an evolving science.

>May your wonders never cease!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Doing away with the Florida fossil permits are already being discussed, due to a few individuals being caught on state owned property using the fossil permit as cover for digging Indian artifacts. If we can't vote some level headed collector friendly folks into legislation we will eventually lose the right to collect them all!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

No such slippery slope exists; collecting artifacts on private property (with permission of the land owner) remains legal in Florida.

Just not wet private property

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I give the "ban private ownership" paleontologists the same attention span and consideration as Al Sharpton or Rush Limbaugh- None because I think they all represent the extreme fringes.

Florida has the equivalent laws of all other states -- Property rights trump all -- you own whatever is on your land -- fossils artifacts etc -- discussion of this point is a red herring.

There is a Florida law against grave robbing -- possession of human bones, teeth, grave objects is a felony.

So, all everyone is discussing is public property -- State and Federal parks... The Feds generally has regulations and severe penalties for fossil or artifact hunting.

On State lands (Peace River) you can generally get a $5 permit to hunt mammal fossils. Nothing is required to hunt shark teeth, but usually you find mammal and marine fossils together.

Finally is the discussion of isolated native American artifacts that are found on public land. I would rather not get into this topic because I think that most people should agree with all Florida laws with the possible exception of the one on artifacts found on state owned land.

The White Queen  ".... in her youth she could believe "six impossible things before breakfast"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just not wet private property

Referring to 'sovereignty-submerged lands'; "tidal lands, islands, sandbars, shallow banks, and lands waterward of the ordinary or mean high water line, beneath navigable fresh water or beneath tidally-influenced waters", which are not private property by statute.

"There has been an alarming increase in the number of things I know nothing about." - Ashleigh Ellwood Brilliant

“Try to learn something about everything and everything about something.” - Thomas Henry Huxley

>Paleontology is an evolving science.

>May your wonders never cease!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In our quest for the " best and biggest", which is what most people are looking for, we unknowingly disregard or toss valuable material that is scientifically important for research. Along with improper collecting methods and not keeping proper locality records.

Just a thought from the other side of the fence

Link to comment
Share on other sites

One extremist paleontologist (a term I will use for these people) said that losing a fossil crocodile skull to a private collection or a fossil dealer is no better than having it erode away in the field. So I don't think that the "fossils will erode away" argument will work against them.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Under the Florida regulations, the permit is renewed yearly, you must document any/all mammal related fossil finds, and Richard has the legal right to appropriate any scientifically significant find. He has only done this once in the life of the program, choosing instead to encourage fossil hunter to donate significant finds. Search for "Rhizosmilodon fitae" to see a successful example.
Richard constantly lectures at Fossil Shows and Fossil clubs making strong connections with amateur fossil hunters.

The fact that there are Paleontologists who have outlandish and foolish views does not bother me as long as we have some one like Richard Hulbert in charge. Jack


Ask Richard his thoughts about the state trying to ban the fossil permits last year. I guarantee you he knows how serious the threat to all collectors are...of any kind. They tried and failed last year but it's coming unless we can all stand as one!
Link to comment
Share on other sites

If I lived in a state where they were considering banning amateur fossil collecting, I think I would encourage any and all fossil clubs to band together and collect evidence of significant amateur finds donated to science. If the evidence can demonstrate with actual examples that amateurs have made a significant contribution in their state, then I think it becomes more difficult for legislators to pass laws banning amateur fossil collecting. I would also include all of the outreach programs that clubs support such as in schools, scouts, etc.

Daryl.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

One extremist paleontologist (a term I will use for these people) said that losing a fossil crocodile skull to a private collection or a fossil dealer is no better than having it erode away in the field.

I would retort with "So it wouldn't make any difference if it was collected by an amateur or not?"

Context is critical.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As one of the few paleontologists on the forum, I think I need to include my two cents. Here's a few points:

1) Only a tiny minority of professionals express these sorts of opinions. Sometimes you'll hear some researchers confuse commercial collecting with private collecting - in my experience, some paleontologists really mean commercial collectors but mistakenly conflate it with private collecting. There are a strange few that really do believe that ALL non-professional fossil collecting should be illegal - this is of course, a rather silly position to take. It's just impractical on numerous levels, many of which need not reiterating here.

2) Some of these researchers holding such an opinion have never really done field work, worked with amateurs, or had positive experiences with amateurs. I try to help collectors identify material (hence my participation on this forum) and have worked with local collectors to salvage bigger specimens - having a nice pool of friends is a great way to keep options open for larger excavations where volunteers are needed. As you all can imagine, only a tiny percentage of collectors I've met in Northern California refuse to even consider donating fossil specimens to museum collections (really, only two come to mind). The point is, most of us who actually have had enough field experience and interactions with with amateur collectors in order to make an objective decision are not only OK with private collecting, but most of us fully embrace it. And it goes both ways - I try and give something back to collectors who work with me to build museum collections by providing them with casts of their specimens (when possible), relevant literature, and locality information and tips for localities and hot spots to check out (even more so while I've been in New Zealand and unable to drop in on my favorite spots).

3) You all have heard this before, but to reiterate, the problem is that fossils not in museum collections are not guaranteed to be curated for posterity. Sure, some weird stuff happens to museum collections occasionally, like selling off parts of collections - a paleontologist's nightmare. But it is rare, and there are tons of roadblocks put up for deaccessioning specimens - as opposed to zero guarantee that a specimen in a private collection will be there in ten, twenty, thirty years. Private collectors have zero legal requirements about their collections in the USA (unless of course specimens are illegally collected). When it comes to research, we have to ignore specimens in private collections as there is no guarantee of scientific reproducibility. The problem is, some researchers who have little to no field experience make silly statements like "we prefer a specimen to erode away into fragments instead of becoming part of a private collection". The problem here is that there is always the possibility that the specimen might be publishable in the near or distant future - as opposed to never, if it were lost to erosion. I'd rather have a beautiful fossil in private hands - existing somewhere - than as a scatter of bone fragments. Statements like that reflect serious short-sightedness.

I suspect much of this discussion has its root in the recently published editorial in Palaeontologia Electronica condemning commercial fossil collection. It's worth a read - they raise some interesting points, but I'll admit I don't agree with all of them.

Anyway guys, keep up the good work - y'all are the cornerstone of paleontology, whether or not all of my colleagues will agree.

  • I found this Informative 10
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks Bobby

A balanced view is exactly what we need and you prove your value to TFF and (I imagine) the entire Paleontological community.

The White Queen  ".... in her youth she could believe "six impossible things before breakfast"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...