Paper No. 188-14
Presentation Time: 11:45 AM
BIG DATA FROM A BIG COUNTRY: HOW FEDERAL OVERSIGHT COULD TRANSFORM THE UTILITY OF FOSSIL RESOURCES IN AMERICA
Federal agencies oversee more than 2.5 million km2 of land, nearly 28% of the United States. Under the Paleontological Resources Preservation Act of 2009 land managers are charged with preserving fossil resources in a similar manner that archeological materials have been for over a century. For the professional paleontologist, this means a greater level of up-front and back-end paperwork to ensure that fossil occurrences and specimens are accounted for. For repositories, it means an influx of specimens to commit storage and curatorial resources in perpetuity. And for agencies, the new mandate will require serious investment in paleontology-trained agents to facilitate the process and manage the incoming information. The upshot is the creation of possibly the world’s largest centralized, dynamic database of fossil collections; one that can provide high-resolution spatial-temporal-historical records for land managers as well as the research community. For example, longitudinal collection records can provide historical data to test whether certain land practices affect fossil collection patterns, or it may indicate biases in fossil recovery due to geomorphic conditions. Furthermore, PRPA may serve to increase public accessibility to paleontology by publishing online visual resources for exploration, discovery and learning.