Paper No. 12
Presentation Time: 4:15 PM


HEIM, Noel A.1, PETERS, Shanan E.2, PAYNE, Jonathan L.1 and SALTZMAN, Jennifer3, (1)Department of Geological Sciences, Stanford University, 450 Serra Mall, Building 320, Stanford, CA 94305, (2)Department of Geoscience, University of Wisconsin–Madison, 1215 W Dayton St, Madison, WI 53706, (3)School of Earth Sciences, Stanford Univeristy, Mitchell Building, 397 Panama Mall, Stanford, CA 94305,

Online data services have the potential to accelerate the rate of data acquisition and its accuracy in the earth sciences. For example, the Paleobiology Database (PaleoDB; and GeoNames data services ( are both invaluable to the History of Life Internship Program at Stanford University. Nineteen high school students spent 8 weeks compiling data from the Ellis and Messina Catalogue of Ostracoda and conducting group research projects on the body size evolution of fossil ostracods. We used PaleoDB data services to retrieve a full taxonomic hierarchy for each species in this database and GeoNames to retrieve coordinates of the municipality or landmark closest to the type locality. These data services were invaluable because they allowed us to easily look up known taxonomic hierarchies and modern geographic locations while focusing efforts on unknown body size data acquisition.

Some elements of this project had to be limited to the conterminous United States, with the assumption that the relative geographic positions of all type localities has been constant through geological time (this assumption is of course violated in the Appalachian and Cordillera). A paleogeographic data service, dynamically maintained by experts in the field of paleogeographic reconstruction, that is capable of rotating present-day coordinates to their proper paleogeographic position allows researchers to take full advantage existing geoscience knowledge and to test biological hypotheses more rigorously.

Although the immediate motivation for collecting data and using data services was for a research-based high school internship program, the data made a large and important contribution to the research program within the Paleobiology Lab at Stanford. Furthermore, integrating paleocoordinates into lithological datasets, such as Macrostrat (, will open up the possibility of rapidly and rigorously constructing lithologically and biologically constrained paleoenvironmental/paleoclimate maps as well as using lithological and paleontological data to refine and ground-truth paleogeographic reconstructions.