THE MUTUAL OBLIGATIONS BETWEEN FOSSIL ENTHUSIASTS AND ACADEMIC PALEONTOLOGISTS
In the Cincinnati area we note that after 150 years of intensive collecting, fossils are still plentiful—very plentiful. The idea that fossils are universally in need of protection is overblown. Given that by far the vast majority of fossils are sold, unrecognized and by the ton, as major components of facing stone, landscaping stone, crushed rock, cement, landfill clay, agricultural lime, etc., we believe people who quarry, extract and sell fossils as fossils—and who will bring unique specimens to our attention—are an asset to the discipline.
As academic paleontologists who work with non-academic enthusiasts in the Cincinnati region and elsewhere, we highlight the demonstrated ways that hobbyists contribute, and how academics can support hobbyists. We use examples from rock and fossil clubs, especially the Dry Dredgers, in the Cincinnati region, as well as the example of the Gunther family in Utah.
One of the principle contributions of amateur paleontologists is that they sift through so much rock and so many fossils. By force of numbers, hours of dedicated search, and community connections, they do far more field work than academics. They conduct salvage operations at temporary exposures, and identify fossils worthy of study. In the process they acquire a working knowledge of fossil bearing units, and may help researchers by retrieving fossils of particular interest and by pointing out localities most worth visiting.
In the environment of a fossil club or association advanced amateurs can pass on their knowledge to a range of people from children through adults. These organizations work best when academic paleontologists dedicate the time to host club meetings, speak to members, and work with more advanced collectors as colleagues. To discourage this fruitful collaboration is to hasten the demise of paleontology as both a science and a hobby.