For 70 years, academic paleontologists have been assisted by a dedicated corps of amateurs known as the Dry Dredgers. Recently, one amateur found a very large and very mysterious fossil that has the professionals puzzled.
Around 450 million years ago, shallow seas covered the Cincinnati region and harbored one very large and now very mysterious organism. Despite its size, no one has ever found a fossil of this “monster” until its discovery by an amateur paleontologist last year.
The fossilized specimen, a roughly elliptical shape with multiple lobes, totaling almost seven feet in length, will be unveiled at the North-Central Section 46th Annual Meeting of the Geological Society of America, April 24, in Dayton, Ohio. Participating in the presentation will be amateur paleontologist Ron Fine of Dayton, who originally found the specimen, Carlton E. Brett and David L. Meyer of the University of Cincinnati geology department, and Benjamin Dattilo of the Indiana University Purdue University Fort Wayne geosciences faculty.
Fine is a member of the Dry Dredgers, an association of amateur paleontologists based at the University of Cincinnati. The club, celebrating its 70th anniversary this month, has a long history of collaborating with academic paleontologists.
“I knew right away that I had found an unusual fossil,” Fine said. “Imagine a saguaro cactus with flattened branches and horizontal stripes in place of the usual vertical stripes. That’s the best description I can give.”
Source: Science Daily
Not only is this a mystery as to what the thing is but it touches on a very important contribution to science: amateurs who collaborate with professional scientist. This is common in the fields of paleontology and astronomy, but also happens in other fields. Amateurs are a whole bunch of enthusiastic eyeballs out there who may have such sophisticated knowledge on the subject that they recognize when something is out of the ordinary. What do they do? They don’t run to the press or publish on their own web sites, they take their finding to the trained experts who know how the deliberate, careful process of discovery to knowledge works.
Contrast this with the thousands of pseudoscientists, paranormal investigators, Bigfoot hunter and ufologists out there who stick to their own isolated communities of followers. They most often don’t seek the guidance of groups who subscribe to scientific skepticism or bring their evidence to scientists and ask them for help. They don’t ask questions but assume the conclusion.
That’s why I loved this story. We don’t know what’s out there but we can collaborate to find out – as long as you are open to changing your assumptions.