(An International Senckenberg Conference and Workshop)
Reports and Recommendations
M. D. Simmons (Department of Geology, University of Aberdeen, Meston Building, King's College, Abderdeen, AB9 2UE, UNITED KINGDOM)
S. L. Cady (SETI/NASA Ames Research Center, Exobiology Branch, Mail Stop N239-4, Moffett Field, CA 94035-1000 USA)
M. A. Lorente (Head Geological Services, Exploration, Maraven, S.A., Apdo 829, Caracas 1010a, VENEZUELA)
X.-I. Mu (Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology, Academia Sininc, 39 East Beijing Road, Nanjing, 210008, PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF CHINA)
R. S. Nicoll (Australian Geological Survey Organisation, GPT Box 378, Canberra, ACT 2601, AUSTRALIA)
M. B. Ozumba (Shell SPDC Nigeria, Geological Services Department, Warri, NIGERIA)
R.W. Scott (Precision Stratigraphy Associates, 3734 So. Darlington, Tulsa OK 74135)
Y. Shen (Max-Planck-Institute for Chemistry, Abt. Biogeochemie, Postfach 3060, 55020 Mainz Germany)
W. Sun (Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology, Academia Sinica, 39 East Beijing Road, Nanjing, 210008, PRC)
S. E. van Heck (c/o Brunei Shell Petroleum Company Sdn Bhd. XGL/2, Seria 7082, Negara Brunei Darussalam)
M. Walter (School of Earth Sciences, North Ryde, South Wales 2109, AUSTRALIA)
The interaction and integration of paleontology with other sciences and technologies are essential for its continued growth and well being. The days of the stand-alone paleontologist are numbered. Every paleontologist must show the broader impact and value of his work, and this is best achieved through working with and alongside scientists from other disciplines. In this way, paleontologists will better appreciate how their work impacts on that of others, while the other collaborating scientists will gain a better insight into the benefits of paleontology. It is an obvious but true statement to make, but problem solving will be enhanced by interdisciplinary effort. It is worth bearing in mind that the goal of any scientific endeavor is to solve a problem. Therefore, interdisciplinary efforts must be focused towards problem solving rather than be for their own sake or merely for show.
The integration of paleontology provides a wider context for research and an inspiration for innovative studies that, in turn, leads to a better understanding of life and Earth history and to new solutions and applications. Conversely, the isolation of paleontologists leads to loss of relevance, value, credibility, and funding; to increased misunderstanding; and ultimately to extinction.
In recent years there has been extensive integration of paleontology with other sciencesnot only the earth, biological, and physical sciences, but with mathematics, planetology, astronomy, and climatology. This has stimulated the paleontologists involved to develop new ideas and projects. Of particular note is the contribution paleontologists have made alongside molecular biologists in understanding the potential for life in extreme environments, not least on our neighboring planets.
The primary means of promoting paleontological integrative activities is through education. This requires clear case studies published in journals of the collaborative disciplines as well as in generalized science journals. Interdisciplinary symposia are excellent means of demonstrating integrated science.
One way that the paleontologist demonstrates interdisciplinary capabilities is by initiating projects and seeking the cooperation of colleagues in other fields. In any instance, it is critical that the paleontologist be proactive and involved in project planning from the beginning. To be a full member of the team will require the paleontologist to be assertive and positive. The 21st century paleontologist will need to embrace new technologies, as they become available.
FUTURE AIMS AND NEEDS
Integration is best facilitated through education, both at undergraduate level and at the level of continuing professional development. To undertake successfully this educational service, paleontologists will need to exchange good teaching materials. In this respect industrial datasets may be particularly valuable because of their applied and typically integrated nature. Rapid exchange of information can be facilitated through electronic media such as PaleoNet. This medium can also be used to exchange information on interdisciplinary conferences from which useful teaching materials may be drawn.
Ideally, good examples of integrated paleontology that have an impact on either the creation of wealth or on broader scientific understanding can be compiled into a textbook or educational video. The latter, if professionally and thoughtfully produced, has the potential for helping to educate a broad spectrum of students and professionals on the value of paleontology. Such a video will need to be international in its scope and to incorporate examples that are drawn from a range of paleontological applications. The oil industry, climate change, global tectonics, and astrobiology are examples that come readily to mind.
Many paleontologists are already working on integrated projects in collaboration with scientists from other disciplines. To further promote this type of approach, however, national paleontological associations could specifically promote integrated paleontology by holding symposia, awarding research grants, and assisting in publishing good studies.
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