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Book Chapter

Bridging the two fossil records: Paleontology’s “big data” future resides in museum collections

By
Warren D. Allmon
Warren D. Allmon
Paleontological Research Institution, 1259 Trumansburg Road, Ithaca, New York 14850, USADepartment of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853, USA
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Gregory P. Dietl
Gregory P. Dietl
Paleontological Research Institution, 1259 Trumansburg Road, Ithaca, New York 14850, USADepartment of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853, USA
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Jonathan R. Hendricks
Jonathan R. Hendricks
Paleontological Research Institution, 1259 Trumansburg Road, Ithaca, New York 14850, USADepartment of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853, USA
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Robert M. Ross
Robert M. Ross
Paleontological Research Institution, 1259 Trumansburg Road, Ithaca, New York 14850, USADepartment of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853, USA
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Publication history
30 November 201725 May 2018

ABSTRACT

There are two fossil records: the physical fossil record, which consists of specimens, and the abstracted fossil record, which is made up of data derived from those specimens. Museum collections are the conduit between these two fossil records. Over the past several decades, the abstracted fossil record has provided many important insights about the major features of life’s history, but it has relied mostly on limited types of data (primarily taxonomic occurrence data) derived from ultimately finite literature sources. In contrast, specimen collections and modern tools for digitizing information about them present an opportunity to transform paleobiology into a “big data” science. Digitally capturing non-traditional (e.g., paleoecological, taphonomic, geochemical, and morphological) data from millions of specimens in museum collections and then integrating them with other unique big data resources has the potential to lead to the most important paleontological discoveries of the twenty-first century.

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Contents

GSA Special Papers

Museums at the Forefront of the History and Philosophy of Geology: History Made, History in the Making

Geological Society of America
Volume
535
ISBN electronic:
9780813795355

GeoRef

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