Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Field Season Thoughts

This is another entry that was written at the end of 2008. Although I suppose it can be regarded as “out of date”, I believe that it is always interesting to look back at one’s thoughts and attitude at the time and , looking back at them, to see if they were correct or, indeed, that they were even relevant. The following is how I wrote this post at the time and then I’ll follow it up with a couple of comments – an epilogue if you like. First up then, the post, in its original form.

I thought that it might be a good time for some thoughts with regard to this year’s field trips. I suppose that the year 2008 will be remembered for the financial crisis that rocked the world. Its implications have been far reaching, not only for everyone on a personal level, but also with regard to the world of palaeontology.

On a worldwide scale, museums and universities have been forced to make cut backs, field trips have been scaled down and exhibitions cancelled. Some student sponsorships have been revoked, which is a tragedy, but fortunately there are organisations such as the Society of Vertebrate Palaeontology which continue to fund impressive schemes.

Early on in the year, the above was a million miles away as we all looked ahead. This was a year where I certainly came to terms with different aspects of field work and, as I continue to mention, we all learn from experience. I’ve also been corresponding with my peers and colleagues and hope that this will hold me in good stead especially with the SVP meeting in Bristol next year.

The two trips to the Bluff were hugely contrasting. The first was all smiles, interesting and a good find to boot. The second was more subdued and there was an element of wondering if we would be able to return in 2009. I really hope the brick works survives, not only for the local jobs it provides, but for the opportunity to continually work the clay which, I am absolutely certain, will reveal further significant dinosaur skeletal remains.

Surprisingly, at time of writing, the Oxford clay brick works and clay quarries appear unaffected by the economic down turn and they remain open and still working. However, I feel in reality that they must be somewhat affected, but they seem to be in better health than their counterparts in the south.

As for the field trips, these quarries continue to frustrate me with regards to vertebrate fossils. Minnie’s quarry was new to me but I liked it very much and hope to visit the site again. Quarry 4, on the other hand, is very much a venue to persevere with and I have now been close to some good finds on a few occasions. However, now that I have site access, I hope to visit the quarry on a regular basis (out of season) and hope that there will be some good finds to be had.

Wonderworld was another new venue and although it was of some interest, I’m not too sure that I would return in the future. Peacefields and Cuckoo’s Hole, on the other hand, were both classic Wealden venues and I would delight in being able to return to them, especially the second named.

With winter upon us, the official field trip season has drawn to a close. However, with one or two personal trips to the south coast penned in, there will certainly be occasion to look for fossils and, more importantly, the odd trip to Quarry 4 at this time of year could be really interesting.

2009 looks to be an exciting year in the making. I’m very hopeful that next year’s field season will be productive, and with the SVP meeting in Bristol during September, there’s a lot to look forward to!

Epilogue

Well, if there’s been an issue that has affected everyone all over the world it has certainly been the recession. We have all seen institutions closing and coming under threat. The very latest is close to home and involves the closure of the entire micropalaeontology unit at the NHM in London and there is a big effort ongoing to reverse the decision and many of us here, and internationally, are all doing their bit to help. I have to say how impressed I am with the international cooperation that has been mobilised because of the paleo-blogosphere and this, in conjunction with other sites such as Facebook, has roused a significant voice for the palaeoworld and I’m glad to be part of it and will continue to be part of it. Long may it continue.

SVP at Bristol was a fantastic experience for me. Although I have no plans for Pittsburgh this year or, indeed, Los Angeles next year, I would like to think that I will attend another meeting in the not too distant future. For a review of SVP 2009, click here.

I continually report about the state of play with regards to access to quarries and also how the recession continues to plague the survival of those whose livelihoods are entangled with them. The loss of Minnie’s Quarry and the Cuckoo’s Hole is a reminder that we cannot afford to take anything for granted but, as reported recently, there may be some light at the end of the tunnel and that the quarries working the Oxford clay are reporting a big upturn in demand and we hope that this spreads to their counterparts working the Wealden clay in the south.

As autumn turned in to winter in 2008, Quarry 4 really produced the goods but it was unfortunate that this amazing spate of finds was tainted by the spectre of illegal collecting but, never the less, the specimens were truly amazing................

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