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Welsh Wizard

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Hi

I strongly feel that it's really important for amateurs and professionals to work closely together to further the field of palaeontology. As part of this, I am interested to hear of peoples experiences of donating items to museums and also working and co-authoring on the publication of scientific papers.

I would be interested to hear about any type of items people may have donated eg fossils, artefacts or even artworks and I would be interested in both good and bad experiences.

I've seen the odd posting in the past on donations and the publication of papers but I'm not sure if there has been a similar combined thread.

Thanks

Nick

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aurelius

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I donated a unique Roman coin to the British Museum - they said thanks, but I expect that it's now buried in the deepest darkest vaults, never to be seen again!
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Hi Nick,
I donated an insect wing that I found in Charmouth to the NHM about three years ago (details http://www.nhm.ac.uk/natureplus/community/identification/blog/2010/09/20/id-service-fossil-donations?fromGateway=true). They were very good and invited me and my son to an open day and so on. I really wanted to be kept up to date with their investigations, but since the donation it's all gone a bit quiet, although they have answered when I've emailed them to see what's going on. I suspect after the initial excitement, things have ground to a halt as it's not well preserved enough to take it any further.

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PaleoStu

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I've gone from being an amateur collector for over 20 years to a PhD student (mature in years, if not in age), which I started part-time in January. I've co-authored (as first author) my first paper and this has been accepted for publication (on dinosaur trackways of the Isle of Wight), although this is not my PhD subject which is Polacanthus and other Wealden nodosaurids.

I made my mind up years ago I wanted to be involved in the science rather than collect from commercial reasons, and since then I've run everything I've found past palaeontologists, although now I'm becoming proficient enough to be confident(ish) of my own identifications. As far as I'm concerned anything an institution wants from my collection they can have, and my wife and I have donated several bits for display etc. When I die the remaining collection will go to Dinosaur Isle Museum. It's worth remembering there's a fair amount of poaching happening now and important specimens are being lost to science - have a pike on eBay to see Wealden fossils disappearing forever (note this is due to commercial collection and, not amateur; and of course there are responsible commercial collectors too). If you don't hear from a museum or university after a donation then politely ask if anything's happening, but it's worth considering there is a fair amount of pressure on academics these days and these things take time (I have research from four years ago I've yet to write up). In some ways palaeontology is by nature a science that happens over a long time scale!

I think it's worth getting more involved in the science and the beauty of palaeontology is everyone can make a real difference. For one thing, museums and universities have very little money to buy fossils and professional palaeontologists have very little time to go out collecting themselves, so amateurs have a huge role to play. I would include co-authoring papers in this, although there's a fair bit to learn. This sounds daunting but I love doing the research, reading papers etc. When you're out collecting it makes on heck of a difference if you understand exactly what you're looking at.

Thing is, you can take it as far as you want to. In the UK we have a long and noble history of amateur collectors; Gideon Mantell was an amateur and should be the patron saint of amateur collectors as far as I'm concerned ;-) One bone or other fossil could make all the difference!

Read papers, go to meetings, hang around museums and get to know the folk working there. Be diligent in recording where you find fossils and if they're in-situ even more so, as this is vital information and science relies on accurate data. Local collectors know their patch better than anyone and are often very generous with their knowledge of stratigraphy etc. It's also worth looking at doing distance learning courses - try the OU or even better Birkbeck College, UCL which has excellent courses which you used to be able to take individually.

If a very, very unacademic person like me can get this far, so can anyone.

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deltapodus

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Welsh Wizard
I strongly feel that it's really important for amateurs and professionals to work closely together to further the field of palaeontology.

Couldn't agree more. It is one of my frustrations that there doesn't seem to be a way an amateur like me can support professionals in field work. If an academic was to say, anyone visiting x location can you look for? I'd be happy to do that. To be fair, that might just be my lack of knowledge of such things speaking. 

PaleoStu - that's a paper I'd like to read - when and where is it being published?

I confess I find ebay annoying on the fossil front - so much so I've even considered contacting them and pointing how much damage is being done. 

Getting back to the thread - I've donated trigonotarbid footprints to the Hunterian in Glasgow. Found them at Cowie near Aberdeen. I didn't know even know the prints were there till the pros pointed them out. Ironically, it was a loose block that I picked up saying there's something in this one. The whole process was a positive experience. Perhaps it helped that I know Jeff Liston, who worked then at the time.
    At the moment, I'm in the process of revising a paper, which has been accepted for publication, subject to revision. As part of that, I'm donating the specimens it's based on to the Yorkshire Museum (ensuring future access and all that). A bit of me doesn't want to let them go, but I know it's the right thing to do. I'll keep you posted on paper and donation. So far, it's been a good experience, if a little daunting at times: writing a paper is very different to "normal" writing.
    I'll second what PaleoStu said above. If I, as an amateur can get this far, with a paper accepted, anyone can. 

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quagga

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I am currently in the process of analysing my Wadhurst clay sievings with a view to publishing (one day I'll get there!).  I will be donating my collections to the NHM, and have been to see what they have there.   They were incredibly helpful.  Thanks PaleoStu and Deltapodus for your encouraging words. 
Can I ask you both where you intend to publish?  As an amateur not affiliated with an academic institution,  I have had trouble accessing useful papers since they are not all open access.
I feel that it is important to donate important specimens, so that they can be studied, but also that anything gleaned from these studies should be openly available to all.


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deltapodus

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Quagga, you're in the same position as me: an amateur with no academic affiliation. Fortunately, I have a friend writing a thesis on fossils in archaeological contexts. So, he provides me with any papers that I need, and, in return, I identify his fossils for him, take photos to illustrate his thesis when I'm out in the field, and so on.
   I'm donating my specimens to the Yorkshire museum: I am hoping they'll be willing to let me have a look behind the scenes when I drop them off. I can hope...

I'm a member of the Yorkshire Geological Society, and they put out something last year (I think) about short 2 page papers, as a way of encouraging members to contribute. So, duly inspired, or should I say nagged and prodded by the friend doing the thesis, I set about writing. All being well, the paper will be in the Proceedings of the YGS. The best suggestion I have is to contact your local/regional group, and see what they have to offer.

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PaleoStu

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I'm not sure when the trackway paper will be out, but I'll post here as soon as it is available. It's in a special edition of the Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, based around a meeting we had about the Jehol-Wealden last September.

The paywall issue is a pain, and people are increasingly publishing OA. Getting an affiliation is useful for sure; I was a research associate for a couple of years before being offered the chance to apply for my degree and that was a useful time for me to get into the groove. If you're writing with a view to publishing then you're contributing already, and this is looked upon very favourably.

I would suggest finding out who is working on material from the sites you collect from and introduce yourself. If no-one is, then be that person. In reality, meeting people is the best way to get really involved. Meetings etc.

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deltapodus

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A  bit off topic - but the paywalls are ridiculous. ƒâ€š‚£30 for one 5 page article? This doesn't just shut out amateurs, but also anyone - pros and amateurs -  based in a country that's less well off than, say, England.
I'm all for open access. But, if we have to pay, why not, say ƒâ€š‚£1 per article? That way, the journals still get something, and it doesn't break the bank for the buyer.

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gigantopithicus

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I get all of my specimens checked out by Dinosaur Isle - any that they have been interested in have been donated straight to them.

In the respect of the price of papers, have you asked relevant museums or the authors? Certainly Dinosaur Isle allows people to access their library (with notice etc.), but i've had copies of papers given to me by the authors - all I had to do was ask.
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PaleoStu

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The paywall situation is a farce, and I've been refused access to papers that were written over 100 years ago.

However, like gigantopithicus says, a paper request to one of the authors is rarely turned down. Also, it might be worth checking local libraries to see if they have access.

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deltapodus

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I've had the same experience - somewhere, I have the piece on Neovenator, given me by Steve Hutt. Sadly, many of the ones I'm after, it's not possible to ask the authors anymore. Sad to say, the local libraries here are very short on anything geological, at least, last time I checked.
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Welsh Wizard

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Aurelius, MrPolly, PalaeoStu, deltapodus, quagga and giagantopithicus.

Thank you all for your replies and stories of donations and working with professionals. All really interesting stuff.

Just a few thoughts from myself.

With respect to papers availability and cost: I agree that it is frustrating but I expect like music and video, they will become more freely available as time moves on. To be quite honest, I'm always surprised with the papers that you can find on the internet. From personal experience, if you find a pdf of a paper that interests you, then make a copy as they sometimes get taken down or the links go and you just can't find them again.

On a different note, I know that the commercial vs amateur vs professional argument can get blood boiling on this forum, but this thread is not about that. Personally, I do think that all three parties can work successfully together and you can find both horror stories about each party and extreme views on all sides. You have to remember, that historically, all three parties have worked together, albeit not necessarily in a coordinated fashion.

One final thing, PalaeoStu, out of interest, did you do a degree or go straight into doing a phd, as I'd be interested on ways of going about getting a phd in palaeontology?

Thanks again

Nick

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Richard

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As others have said, some authors will supply copies of their papers if they are approached with genuine enthusiasm. In fact some are very keen to oblige - my wife used to say that's because they are so delighted to find someone else interested in their (sometimes obscure) fields!

Also, my local library will get me a photocopy of any paper for a couple of pounds - I think they come from originals in the British Library etc. 

BTW, to Deltapodus (above) congratulations - you have an admirable attitude to things. 

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PaleoStu

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Reply with quote  #15 
Welsh Wizard - I don't have a first degree or masters. I've collected on the Isle of Wight for a couple of decades and come to know several of the collectors and scientists working there, and got to know one to tow other collectors and palaeontologists around the country, specifically N. Yorks. . In 2010 my wife and I took a trip to the badlands of the Hell Creek to dig for dinosaurs with a company that was being run with a view to setting up a museum that would be a public trust, and keep the fossils local and available for research. It was the best week of my life.

From there I joined the Society of Vertebrate Palaeontology, got to know more people and got in contact with my current supervisor. He eventually asked me to become a research associate and I was active in research, going to meetings eventually presenting at a couple. I was offered the opportunity for a PhD out of the blue and grabbed the opportunity with both hands: I'm self-funded and middle-aged and run my own business, so that helped, although I still went through the whole application process of course and had to attend an (vigorous) interview, propose a project, get refs etc, the whole kit and caboodle.

The truth is I'm doing my PhD from a distance and on a shoestring whilst running a business. I've done it by going to meetings and field trips, getting to know people and finding a research area I'm passionate about. I'm not really an academic, but that bloke on the beach for hours getting a bad case of 'cretaceous stoop'. However, I love the science and I decided long ago that was where I could contribute, even if it meant just giving specimens for research.

So go to meetings, and meet people.

So I don't see the commercial/amateur/student/professional divide as being relevant, but whether you're for the science or for the money. I think institutions should pay for fossils, but I can tell you they often have no money to do so, especially in times like these where budgets have been slashed to the bone (pun intended). In some cases private individuals have had to raise funds via collections etc to enable them to buy fossils - not a great situation and precarious to say the least. They rely on donations. The increasing commercialisation of fossils of scientific importance is the single greatest threat to the study of ancient life we face at the moment, and that is sad.

Without sounding like a pompous git, all I want to do is contribute to the science, which I love and has a rich history here in the UK. I love collecting, researching and simply finding out about these remarkable objects, which are part of our heritage.

Also beer is very often involved, so what's not to love about palaeontology?

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Welsh Wizard

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PalaeoStu

Thanks for the reply and good luck with the Phd.

All the best

Nick

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deltapodus

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Quote:
Originally Posted by PaleoStu
Also beer is very often involved, so what's not to love about palaeontology?


Ah, a man after my own heart. Beer, pringles, and fossils. Enough said. PaleoStu, check your pm's.

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Olenus

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Interesting article in the Deposits mag about Aveley Elephants about amateurs working with professionals.

Lee.

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PaleoStu

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Erm, how do I check my PM's?
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Top left of any page under resources see 'New Messages'
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PaleoStu

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Hmmm . . . I can't see that. I have the "Forum Home" hierarchy and "Member Control Panel" underneath that.
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deltapodus

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Quote:
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Hmmm . . . I can't see that. I have the "Forum Home" hierarchy and "Member Control Panel" underneath that.


As I'm looking at it, on my browser, just to the right of Member Control Panel, is what looks like a little postcard, and then, 0 New Messages. Hope that helps.

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PBGeo

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"Should" be just to the right of member Control Panel?
 


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PaleoStu

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Nope, no postcard. Nothing to the right go Member Control Panel. I'm using Safari so I'll try in Firefox.
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prep01

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Stuart, it may be that since the reorganisation of the site you need a certain number of post to be able to send/receive PM's! Look in faq's or contact Admin.

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PaleoStu

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Ah, right. Will do.
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deltapodus

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This thread
has got me thinking about my path in palaeontology to date, and how Iƒ¢¢â€š¬¢â€ž¢ve
reached where I am now. To set the scene for you, the only science
qualification I have at all is a Physics O level. My degree is in actually in
theology, and, by trade, Iƒ¢¢â€š¬¢â€ž¢m a primary teacher. Like a lot of folks (many of
us, I guess), I loved dinosaurs as a kid, drifted away as a teenager, then read
an article based on Jack Hornerƒ¢¢â€š¬¢â€ž¢s and
 
Bob Bakkerƒ¢¢â€š¬¢â€ž¢s work: that prompted to buy a couple of books (Digging
Dinosaurs, and Dinosaur Heresies), and Iƒ¢¢â€š¬¢â€ž¢ve never stopped.


The more I
learnt, the more I wanted to know, and thatƒ¢¢â€š¬¢â€ž¢s the great beauty of
palaeontology for me: thereƒ¢¢â€š¬¢â€ž¢s always something new, and there's always the chance of being the person who finds it. 

I started reading Nature and
Science, picking up the scientific articles. It has been tough at times: I can
remember sitting there, reading the same sentence five times, not to mention
the paragraph, before I could understand it. There have been occasions where I
felt frazzled, trying to comprehend what I was reading about the dinosaur in
question. Nowadays, itƒ¢¢â€š¬¢â€ž¢s ammonites ƒ¢¢â€š¬¢â‚¬Å“ I was reading a piece just yesterday,
where that frazzled feeling was back. Honestly, Iƒ¢¢â€š¬¢â€ž¢d rather be working on dinos,
but you work with what you can find, and so Iƒ¢¢â€š¬¢â€ž¢m now learning about ammonites.



So, here I am
today, with a paper thatƒ¢¢â€š¬¢â€ž¢s been accepted, subject to revision (just
resubmitted, so fingers crossed). And, I hope this doesnƒ¢¢â€š¬¢â€ž¢t come across the
wrong way, but Iƒ¢¢â€š¬¢â€ž¢ve had times when a pro has contacted me, asking me for
information about a particular species of dinosaur. Like PaleoStu, Iƒ¢¢â€š¬¢â€ž¢m not an
academic. Iƒ¢¢â€š¬¢â€ž¢m the one on the beach (not as often as Iƒ¢¢â€š¬¢â€ž¢d like) whoƒ¢¢â€š¬¢â€ž¢s always
looking down, the one on my hands and knees in the shingle (some of my best
stuff has come out of the shingle, like an ichthy paddle bone).  Then going home and reading up. While Iƒ¢¢â€š¬¢â€ž¢d love
to find a new species of dino (I can dream, right?), contributing to the scientific
knowledge of fossils is what I hope to do, in whatever way I can. Right now,
fingers crossed,



Read up, get out in the field, join a group (Iƒ¢¢â€š¬¢â€ž¢m in the Yorkshire Geological Society), go to meetings,
donate specimens (youƒ¢¢â€š¬¢â€ž¢ll get a good reputation as someone the pros can trust to
do the right thing with important finds).



So ƒ¢¢â€š¬¢â‚¬Å“ why have
I written all this? In the hope that will inspire others: if I can do it, so
can you. You could be the next person to write a paper, or to discover something
significant scientifically, and recognise for what it is.



PaleoStu ƒ¢¢â€š¬¢â‚¬Å“
thanks, you set off me, thinking about all of this with one of your posts
above. I pmƒ¢¢â€š¬¢â€ž¢ed you, wondering where you live and didnƒ¢¢â€š¬¢â€ž¢t want that info put up
where it wasnƒ¢¢â€š¬¢â€ž¢t private. Reading your posts, I think I would enjoy chewing the
fat with you, over a pint.


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Julian123

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Reply with quote  #28 

My experience of donating a find to science has not been good. Many years have gone by and although some research has been done I have to pester with many emails before I get an update. Soon I will post full details.

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Interesting discussion !!Thumbs Up


writing a paper is a daunting and not easy task.

Hardest part i think is writing about something that is important and not just rewriting others work.

I am in process of writing one and you really have to make sure its something a bit different ...

Our local geological society encourages members to write short articles for the billet, im guessing other societies would also promote this.? Its a good way of starting writing and getting help with doing a article.

I recently done a article in Deposits which they kindly published for me , its also good way to "get published" and not as heavy as a scientific paper.

 

 

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Hello deltapodus, just a question,, you say.. My degree is actually in theology.  Yet you do   palaeontology. The two subjects don't really go together. It just seems a bit strange.

Lee.

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Reply with quote  #31 
@ DinoGary. The YGS does encourage people to write reports of, say, field trips, that can go in the Circular, as well as the full on scientific reports in the Quarterly. And, you're right, it is hard to find something new to say. I'm realising that the best way (for me, at least) is to pick a site and visit it over and over.

@ Olenus. I can see why it might seem strange (then again, some early palaeontologists were also clergy) - at the time when choosing courses, I found Biblical History fascinating, and wanted to learn more. As I said in an earlier post, I've always liked fossils, just my teenage years saw other things take precedence. So I guess you could say I've returned to my 1st love, "academically" speaking. The skills I gained in doing that degree  -  research, digesting  info, understanding a chain of reasoning, etc have served  me well. 
Looking back, I'm actually glad I didn't pursue Geology earlier as a subject: I understand that, unless you're willing to work in the commercial sector, there's precious few jobs to be had. The other reason I'm glad I didn't pursue geology/palaeontology earlier goes like this: the more I learn, the more I realise how badly Science was taught at school, and how poor my understanding was as a result. It's safe to say that, now, I have a far better grasp of science than school left with me.
I guess it might cause others to wonder, but I can't say it's ever bothered me. Perhaps there was something in the air: my closest friend, who took the same theology degree, is now a qualified archaeologist, and working on his doctorate.

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Olenus

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deltapodus, ,,, some early paleontologists were also clergy very true, but  science explains away god.  If you believe in evolution and fossils. Then god didn't exist.


Lee

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Welsh Wizard

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Deltapodus........Could be worse, I'm a Chemical Engineer and that doesn't go with Palaeontology either.

Julian - thanks for the reply. I'll be interested to see what you've donated and did you do any type of agreement with the museum?

A small request. Please don't turn this thread into a Richard Dawkinsesque discussion.........it would make my head hurt.

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dinogary

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How many of our paying jobs actually goes with our hobby/interest?
probably very few ?

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Olenus

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Richard Dawkins has some good points! Like the God delusion !

Lee.

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Olenus
 science explains away god.  If you believe in evolution and fossils. Then god didn't exist.

Olenus, I can't agree with your reasoning. Not because I think that god did create the world, or that evolution didn't exist. But, because, I think that you cannot use religion to disprove science, and vice versa. Short version - science uses the principle of falsification. Can you falsify the idea that god didn't create the world? Only by getting god to create a new one. Is that going to happen? Probably not, therefore god didn't do it isn't a scientific idea because it can't be falsified. My only mention of Dawkins - the above is why I can't agree with him.  

For the record, I accept evolution. To me, it's a fact, like gravity: belief doesn't enter into it. Also for the record, you'd probably call me an evidentialist (does that word exist?) - you want me to accept it? Then show me the evidence. Olenus, I hope I haven't caused offence with this post, but, if I have, I apologise: it was not my intention to offend, just to explain where I stand.

You know, I run into creation vs evolution a lot at work, usually children denying evolution because the imam/rabbi/priest told them so. By now, I've got some well practiced arguments for making them think. One problem I see over and again is that the evolution deniers don't know enough about evolution  to actually make a convincing argument. 

Returning to my original intent: mentioning my original degree was to show that it is possible to become a palaeontologist, even without a science background, and perhaps inspire others to write papers.
Julian, I'd like to hear more...

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Reply with quote  #37 
deltapodus, no offence taken,  i see you are skirting round the question. So i will leave it at that.

Lee.

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Reply with quote  #38 

It's been interesting reading peoples' post about their journeys into palaeontology, I'm at the beginning of mine; I've been fossil hunting for just over a year now and it has captivated me in a way nothing else has for a long time. So far I've found a whole cabinet's worth of stuff which, whilst I'm sure little of it is of any significance, I treasure because (and this is the bet way I can think of putting it into words) each discovery marks the end of a process which has taken millions of years, has beaten incredible odds, and quite frankly that blows my mind.

I was wondering whether at this stage any one else felt like a massive doofus, or is it just me?  It is such an enormous field of interest, where everyone else seems to know what they are talking about and I can barely remember the names of my own children let alone the Latin names of Triassic Fish...


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Reply with quote  #39 
No No, you are not alone, I am just starting out in my studies of Geology with the OU this year. And i am really struggling to get my head around the correct terms and names for the processes and thats before i start on Paleogeology!
 

I am sure everybody here started out in the same way, and with practice and persistance i am sure it will sink in. and getting involved in the discussions here i am sure will help!

 

And yes, the processes of these fossils and the very spoecific requirements for them to be preserved is mindblowing, also is the fact that somewhere, on this earth there is a creature that is currently starting the process of turning into a fossil... who knows where it will end up, and who will find it! Smile

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PaleoStu

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Reply with quote  #40 
Deltapodus - when I get a mail box I'll pm you.

I've been a graphic designer for 25 years and do my research in my spare time. Anyone can contribute to the science!

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deltapodus

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Reply with quote  #41 
I was wondering whether at this stage any one else felt like a massive doofus, or is it just me?  [/QUOTE]

You're not alone in that. All I can say is it does make sense eventually. Right now, I'm getting to grips with ammonites and the associated vocab, and realising that the difference between some species is simply how may ribs there are in a given distance. 



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oldfossil

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Reply with quote  #42 
Getting back to the original question of papers.  Although time consumming to write you can get them published, IF you can get the right support.  I know several people who regularly produce papers.  I prefer to donate specimens to museums, where papers can more easily be written.  I only do this on the understanding that I will be achnowledged as the finder.

What I have done in the way of papers, is to maintain a detailed record of sites including maps with the position of finds marked on them.  This is for my personal use and nicely complements the normal recording process.

For those without papers to identify ammonites, try 'jsdammonites.fr'    Its a good starting point and if you join a club there is usually someone that can help.   It would be interesting to know how many of us are members of local groups, as many are dieing through lack of support.

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deltapodus

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Reply with quote  #43 
Quote:
Originally Posted by oldfossil
'jsdammonites.fr'


Wow. Great website there. I particularly like the bit where you click, for example, on Dactylioceratidae and see photos of all the genera side by side. 

You know these stories you hear of folks making discoveries in museum drawers? I had a moment bit like that yesterday - rooting through the boxes of stuff collected 20 years ago (when I was a lot more "ignorant"), picked up one ammonite and thought this isn't Dactylioceras. What is it? Turns out to be a Peronoceras fibulatum, at least judging by the photos on the above website. Oldfossil, my thanks for that. 
That Peronoceras wasn't the only surprise. I've got a partial ammonite where just the fragment is wider than my hand... (Pics later)

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deltapodus

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Reply with quote  #44 
Returning to something mentioned earlier in this thread - commercial collectors, you might find these two articles interesting.




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Reply with quote  #45 
Just an update here. I've been asked to make a couple more tweaks, but my paper on ammonites has definitely been accepted. Might only be a small contribution to the world of palaeontology, but that's one ambition fulfilled.
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quagga

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Reply with quote  #46 
Congratulations deltapodus!


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PaleoStu

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Reply with quote  #47 
Congratulations! Getting your first paper accepted is no mean feat. I look forward to reading it!
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dinogary

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Reply with quote  #48 
deltapodus, what  does your paper cover ,is it a new species of ammonite or some morphological detail?
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Doggerfan

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Reply with quote  #49 
Quote:
Originally Posted by dinogary
deltapodus, what  does your paper cover ,is it a new species of ammonite or some morphological detail?


That would interest me too. Congratulations anyway.

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deltapodus

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Reply with quote  #50 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Doggerfan
Quote:
Originally Posted by dinogary
deltapodus, what  does your paper cover ,is it a new species of ammonite or some morphological detail?


That would interest me too. Congratulations anyway.


It's about two bitten ammonites - Dactylioceras sp - from Saltwick Bay - so i suppose we're talking ecology, and identity of predator. I don't want to go into too much detail. I've seen enough stories over the years of people messing up by revealing info before formal publication, and I'm not sure how much info qualifies as too much. 
  I am quite happy, though, to let people have copies once it's published. I understand that authors receive 25 free copies of their paper. 

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