Paper No. 12
Presentation Time: 11:15 AM
TRACKS OF GREGARIOUS DINOSAURS DO NOT NECESSARILY LEAD TO COOPERATIVE RESEARCH ALLIANCES: EFFECTIVENESS OF PARTNERSHIPS AND POLICIES AT THE RED GULCH DINOSAUR TRACKSITE
The Rocky Mountain West contains some of the most important vertebrate paleontological remains in North America, many of which are located on public lands managed by the federal government. To help facilitate the preservation and protection of these nonrenewable, scientific and educational resources, partnerships have been formed between institutions and land management agencies. As these fossils are public resources, it is vital for the public to be involved in these endeavors. An example of this type of cooperative project took place at the Red Gulch Dinosaur Tracksite (RGDT). Begun in 1997, this project brought researchers, students, and volunteers from around the country to work with land managers to determine the paleontological significance of a previously unknown dinosaur tracksite in the Bighorn Basin of Wyoming. Over 1,000 footprints of theropod dinosaurs are preserved at the site, indicating the gregarious nature of these beasts as they traveled across an ancient tidal flat 165 million years ago. The RGDT is a unique site not only for our understanding of a previously unknown Middle Jurassic dinosaur fauna, but also as an experiment in resource protection and public interpretation. During the five years of research, the public was encouraged to visit, comment, and participate in making RGDT the most intensively documented dinosaur tracksite in the world and one of our national treasures. As with any project involving people with various backgrounds and agendas, the "sailing of the seas" was not always smooth. In fact, various turbulent times led to dissolving of partnerships and mutinying of volunteers. Fortunately, the project reached fruition and valuable lessons were learned regarding establishing lines of communication, agendas, guidelines, and responsibilities. Ultimately, the protection and preservation of the resource must take precedent over personal agendas. Although the RGDT project illustrated what was the best and the worst of times in a team project, it also showed how a national policy for the protection of fossil resources could succeed when scientists agree to work in a communicative and professional manner with the public. In addition, land managers can help facilitate such projects by supporting, encouraging, and acknowledging all research participants.