Paper No. 3-3
Presentation Time: 8:45 AM
COLLABORATION BETWEEN AMATEUR AND PROFESSIONAL PALEONTOLOGISTS ON THE WEST COAST: A CASE STUDY FROM THE LATE NEOGENE PURISIMA FORMATION AND SANTA MARGARITA SANDSTONE OF NORTHERN CALIFORNIA
Rich late Neogene marine vertebrate assemblages from the upper Miocene Santa Margarita Sandstone (11-9 Ma) and Miocene-Pliocene Purisima Formation (7-2.5 Ma) in Santa Cruz County include sharks, rays, bony fish, sea turtles, marine birds, pinnipeds, cetaceans, desmostylians, sirenians, and land mammals. Contributions from amateur paleontologists have been crucial in assembling fossil collections from these two formations. Collection data for vertebrate fossils within the University of California Museum of Paleontology (UCMP) was accessed in order to examine the relative contribution of amateur and professional collecting efforts for the Santa Margarita Sandstone (n=161) and Purisima Formation (n=1126); data from Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History was not available. Between 1/3 and 1/2 of all vertebrate specimens from these two formations were collected by amateurs - 38% of all Purisima Formation vertebrates (versus 59% collected by professionals) and 44% of all Santa Margarita Sandstone vertebrates (versus 49% collected by professionals). Furthermore, out of 21 articles reporting fossil vertebrates from these two formations published since 1960, all but one of these (n=20) have reported specimens collected by amateurs. This data from the UCMPcollections database and published literature demonstrates that amateur contributions are not only numerically significant, but that amateur collections include scientifically significant fossils.
Multiple courses of action foster amateur-professional collaboration. Professionals can maintain good relations by making time to meet with and educate amateurs and
provide fossil identifications. Amateurs may be empowered by providing reprints, giving advice on fossil preparation and storage, invitations to field trips and excavations, sharing stratigraphic data, giving public lectures and workshops, and providing casts of donated fossils; multiple methods work better than one (or none) and creativity is encouraged here. Particularly eager amateurs are enthusiastic volunteer field assistants, and can be quick to learn specialized field. Inviting amateur paleontologists to collaborate in field and lab activities promotes a synergistic relationship and blurs the lines between professional and amateur.