INCREASING ACCESSIBILITY AND ACCOUNTABILITY OF FOSSILS FROM PUBLIC LANDS AT THE SMITHSONIAN NATIONAL MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY: LAYING THE GROUNDWORK FOR DATA SHARING AMONG STAKEHOLDERS IN FOSSIL RESOURCES
The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) has been managing fossils collected from public lands since its founding. Its role in fossil resource management is unique as it houses the National Fossil Collection, it supports in-residence, top-tier paleontological curators who actively produce peer reviewed scientific discoveries, and it is a Trust Instrumentality of the United States. In essence, the NMNH Paleo Dept. represents multiple stakeholder groups that have an interest in fossils. A primary goal of NMNH Paleo is to ensure that each stakeholder group has access to fossil data at the appropriate level. As part of this goal, the Department is working to support the accountability needs of other stakeholders, such as federal land managers, by improving methods of sharing fossil data.
The first phase of this work is defining the fossil data access and accountability needs for each stakeholder group. Much of this will be determined by the implementation of various regulations as well as agreements between land managers and repositories. The second phase is defining what kinds of data need to be shared to meet those needs. Georeferencing legacy collections is critical in identifying what specimens are important to what stakeholder. The third phase is building capacity and developing a cyberinfrastructure to mobilize data that were previously inaccessible or undiscoverable.