(An International Senckenberg Conference and Workshop)
Reports and Recommendations
R. Rosen (2719 S. Southern Oaks Drive, Houston, TX 77068, USA).
P. Diver (BP-Amoco Corporation, P. O. Box 3092, Houston, TX 77253-3092, USA).
W. W. Hay (Geomar, Wischhofstr. 1-3, Kiel, D-24148, GERMANY).
H. R. Lane (Program Director, Geology and Paleontology, National Science Foundation, Washington, D.C., USA).
V. Mosbrugger (Institut fuer Geologie und Palaeontologie, Universitaet Tuebingen, Sigwartstr. 10, 72076 Tuebingen, GERMANY ).
W. Piller (Institut fuer Palaeontologie, Geozentrum de Universitaet Wien, Althanstrasse 14, A-1090 Vienna, AUSTRIA ).
R. W. Scott (Precision Stratigraphy Associates, 3734 S. Darlington, Tulsa, Oklahoma 74135-5515, USA).
J. J. Sepkoski (Dept. of Geophyiscal Sciences, University of Chicago, 5734 South Ellis Ave, Chicago, IL 60637 USA ).
M. Walter (School of Earch Sciences, Macquarie, South Wales 2109, AUSTRALIA).
WHO ARE THE ACTUAL AND POTENTIAL CLIENTS?
Consulting paleontologists have a viable career in the 21st century with an expanding clientele. Not only will the petroleum industry continue to be a most important client, but also other industries will begin to use paleontological data in their business applications. Such industries and initiatives that will use paleontological consultants include coal and mining, environmental studies, hydrogeological analyses, global climate change, natural hazards and engineering, search for new resources, and government agencies for such topics as forensics and extraterrestrial life.
The petroleum industry has traditionally been the most important client of consulting paleontologists. Petroleum geologists, geophysicists and engineers use paleontological data and interpretations about geologic age, depositional environment, CAI/TAI, biomarkers, vitrinite reflectance, kerogen types, field mapping, and palynofacies mapping. The advent of 3D seismic and the new computer-based, stratigraphic-analysis software systems has artificially reduced the need for paleontological input. Once these new technologies mature and it is rediscovered that better results are gained using them when they are combined with refined biostratigraphic time correlations, the need for paleontologic-based correlations will return to its traditional levels. This upsurge in the use of paleontological information, however, will require that information be provided using a more computer-compatible format than the traditional zonal approach.
ISSUES TO BE ADDRESSED BY PALEONTOLOGICAL CONSULTANTS
Paleontologists are required to communicate their results in an unambiguous form so that specific questions may be addressed. Where appropriate, the data and interpretation should be transferred in digital form so that they can be integrated immediately in the workstation environment. Where possible, it is ideal that the paleontologist interacts with the team of scientists assigned to solve business applications. The paleontologists challenge is to communicate their results in such a manner that nonpaleontologists can use the information within their own arena of operation.
Consistency of Results.
Consultants must be consistent from project to project in processing techniques and analytical practices so that the results and interpretations will be comparable through time. Even more challenging is to achieve consistency among different consultant groups.
Standards must be set and adhered to for processing different fossil groups and the information about them. To achieve taxonomic consistency working groups sponsored by professional organizations should examine taxonomic concepts and negotiate uniformity in usage of nomenclature. Unique, in-house nomenclature should be viewed as a liability rather than as a proprietary advantage. In addition, some consistency is desirable in data management and transfer in the digital format_
Uniformity in definition of environmental models, age and stage definitions, sequence concepts, palynofacies, kerogen types, and maturation indexes is desirable so that our results can be used interchangeably and integrated seamlessly with information from other projects. Consulting paleontologists should view this as a challenge rather than as a threat.
Paleontological consultants function as biostratigraphers and as a marketer of their scientific results to business and industrial applications. Consulting paleontologists must develop more efficient and faster ways to market their services and to communicate and apply their data. The paleontological news groups on the Internet are some of the best way to communicate; more consultants need to participate.
Interaction between universities and industrial consultants will enhance the understanding of what knowledge and skills are needed to apply paleontological science to solve needs of industry. Consultants and industry could provide training grounds for students. Furthermore, databases in the consultancies and industry are resources for university training and research. Feedback among industry, consultants, and universities benefits all parties.
At times consulting paleontologists find themselves competing with governmental agencies and institutions. Such competition places the consultant at a great disadvantage because governmental and educational groups have different financial standards, so consultants are not able to compete. Commonly, these individuals can use the government facilities to process their samples, receive a governmental salary, and are paid a consultant wages or the equivalent. Universities and consultants should explore new ways in which exchanges may be mutually beneficial to the agency, the university, and to the consultant.
Product Quality Control.
Consulting paleontologists offer different services under similar descriptions. A consistency in definition of services will serve our clientele so that the profession achieves conformity between what is promised and what is delivered. Possibly standard descriptions of services could be negotiated. The consultant must match the service to meet the clients needs and to ensure ease of integration with other data in the possession of the client.
Quality and the kind of the details consultants provide are also different. Perhaps a certification process for consulting paleontologists would be useful to set standards of quality and consistency. Australia has a certification process of paleontologists in place. Perhaps standardized contracts should be instituted.
- Certification of consultants (by AAPG or SEPM).
- Exchange of hard copy and digital data: (physical, digital, software, and hardware).
- Manage the centralized archiving of core, sidewall cores, cuttings, geochemical, biostratigraphic and thin sections, and orphaned samples, cores, and fossils. Establish protocols and funding.
- Public outreach brochures to be prepared and distributed in collaboration with geological societies. (Sepkoski, with Bob Scott, to update PS brochures on careers in paleontology by March 1998.).
- Regular meetings between consultants within specific regions could be set up to promote discussion of mutual problems. For the Gulf Coast, Rashel Rosen and Rich Lane will coordinate.
Consulting paleontologists will develop more efficient and faster ways to market their services and to communicate their data and, more importantly, the applications and implications of their data. First, the data will become more consistent throughout the consulting arena by incorporating a consistent taxonomic nomenclature, achieving uniform processing, collection, and reporting of data on abundance and diversity. Second, the interpretive classifications of age and environment, and kerogen maturation, among others, will become standardized among the various consultants. Third, digital transmission of data and interpretations will become standardized, as the workstation becomes the tool of choice. Fourth, paleontological consultants will become more involved in the team that integrates and applies data to finding business solutions. This latter issue will require a greater attention to issues of quality control of services, to confidentiality of client information, and to ethical transactions with all parties. Consulting paleontologists will turn to existing certification and accreditation programs in place of new programs by professional societies and governmental bodies. Some future needs:
- Interaction with governmental paleontological groups in data collection and applications;
- Public outreach with professional societies and educational institutions;
- Central sample storage of core, cuttings, and processed samples;
- Uniform standards for data collection, processing, analysis, and interpretation;
- On-going meetings of groups of consultants to deal with local problems.
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