Paper No. 295-2
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:30 PM
CLOSING THE GAP – BUILDING A STRONG AND PRODUCTIVE NETWORK BETWEEN AMATEURES AND PROFESSIONALS IN PALEONTOLOGY. HOW THE MYFOSSIL PROJECT CREATES A STRONG PALEO-COMMUNITY AND FRANKING PRIVATE FOSSIL RESOURCES INTO PROFESSIONAL DATABASES WITH BOTH SIDES BEING BENEFICIARY
The great natural history collections in museums and universities all over the country are the backbone of national and international research in taxonomy, biodiversity and evolution. The bulk of the collections has its origin in private engagement and was donated by private collectors and enthusiasts. Even the most iconic of fossils (e.g. Archaeopteryx lithographica, von Meyer 1861) stem from the playground of amateur paleontologists and private collectors. It is hard to imagine how much more of such icons may lie dormant unnoticed in private cabinets. The NSF funded FOSSIL Project is focused on attracting fossil hunters of all ages and level of experience to participate in academic research in general and special digital database like myFOSSIL and iDigBio in particular. Thirty representatives of U.S. fossil organizations completed an online survey about their clubs’ current activities and member interest in new initiatives. The majority of club members are active users of the Web, with 77% of representatives reporting that members already use online image galleries. Ninety percent reported that club members would be interested in access to additional online digital resources, and 80% or higher reported members to be interested in training in collection curation in either workshops or online webinars. To that end, the Fossil Project in partnership with iDigBio has begun providing training to amateurs that will allow them to contribute in meaningful ways to the digitization of fossil collections. Just a few advice in how to clean, prepare and image their fossils and how to upload the digital data might sometimes be enough to fulfill all the requirements needed to not just get access into the myFOSSIL database but also to be part of the FOSSIL and iDigBio world. In giving them the platform and appropriate guidance in terms of different types of tutorials, networking, personal interaction and discussion, we pave the way for a prospering and fruitful community. With respect to amateurs’ personal collections, we aim to increase their appreciation of the potential value of their collections when coupled with sound curatorial and imaging practices. As amateurs gain skills, we anticipate increased interest and participation in the national effort to digitize collections.