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Paper No. 4
Presentation Time: 8:45 AM


NAGEL-MYERS, Judith, Paleontological Research Institution, 1259 Trumansburg Rd, Ithaca, NY 14850, DIETL, Gregory, Paleontological Research Institution, 1259 Trumansburg Road, Ithaca, NY 14850 and ALLMON, Warren, Paleontological Rsch Institution, 1259 Trumansburg Rd, Ithaca, NY 14850,

Working with orphaned collections is routine in museums. Accepting and curating such material almost always involves addressing problems such as missing specimen data and the deterioration of specimens. Although the absorption of an orphaned collection comes with increased curatorial responsibility, the potentially high value of many of these collections to science and society makes this a crucial undertaking for institutions housing collections. An underappreciated use of paleontological collections is the considerable and increasingly realized potential for conservation related research, such as biodiversity loss and global climate change. This increased use underscores the need to acquire and care for orphaned collections that contain vital and often irreplaceable material.

The William J. Zinsmeister Collection represents a success story of the adoption of a potentially orphaned collection containing material significant for research dealing with ecological and environmental issues. This collection, which was transferred to the Paleontological Research Institution from Purdue University in 2008, includes Cretaceous-Eocene fossil mollusks from Seymour Island, Antarctica and vicinity, and is widely recognized as one of the largest and finest in the world from this region. The Zinsmeister Collection has itself formed much of the basis for research on Cretaceous-through-Eocene paleobiogeographic patterns; changes at the K-T extinction and in the Paleocene recovery from it; climate change during the Eocene, which included the beginning of glaciation on Antarctica and the initiation of the current “Ice House World” climate regime; and the discovery of many previously unknown and unique fossil taxa. A recent award from NSF is supporting curation, databasing, and imaging of this unique collection, which will make it widely available to researchers for the first time.

As this example highlights, decisions for adding orphaned collections to existing collections should consider the use of such material in the context of current conservation-related problems, which will contribute to ecological/environmental understanding and also lead to increased appreciation and support from the public for paleontological collections and the institutions that house them.

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