RAPID CITY, S.D. (May 13, 2014) – The South Dakota School of Mines & Technology is hosting the 2014 Conference on Fossil Resources, attracting nearly 120 paleontological experts from around the world.
The conference begins today and runs through Thursday. The focus will be on partnerships between federal and non-federal agencies in managing fossils found on public lands. The university’s Museum of Geology has been a repository for federal, tribal and state fossils for many years.
“We are considered by several of the agencies to be a poster child for good professional relations between museums and agencies, especially now that our Paleontology Research Laboratory is open,” said Sally Shelton, associate director at the museum and conference chair.
The conference will highlight the history of Fossil Cycad National Monument, between Hot Springs and Edgemont, the only National Park Service unit ever decommissioned because its main resource was removed or stolen. Conference attendees will travel to the site on Wednesday afternoon following a moderated morning session on the site’s history and future.
Other conference highlights include sessions on monitoring and mitigation paleontology, when experts work to salvage fossils from construction, highway and industrial sites, as well as law enforcement issues when sites are damaged and fossils are stolen.
Attendees will come from throughout the United States, Canada, Uruguay and the United Kingdom. Representatives of the Cheyenne River Reservation’s and Pine Ridge Reservation’s Tribal Historic and Cultural Heritage Preservation offices will discuss paleontology resource management issues. “One of our priorities is training the next generation of tribal paleontologists in this region,” Shelton said.
About a dozen School of Mines paleontology students are highly involved in the conference. The School of Mines teaches the only graduate and undergraduate course in paleontology resource management in the country, preparing students for industry jobs in monitoring paleontology, federal, state agency and tribal jobs, and paleontology law enforcement jobs.
“I am very proud of the students. They will get a terrific chance to talk to and network with the experts in these fields,” Shelton said. The School of Mines has been asked to contribute to a textbook on mitigation paleontology. The book’s lead authors will attend the conference.
A reception celebrating the life of longtime museum volunteer Bill Schurmann and an announcement of a new exhibit/program made possible by his estate gift will be at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Museum of Geology, third floor of the O’Harra Building. The conference is dedicated to the memory of Schurmann in honor of his many years of volunteer service to the museum and the School of Mines.
One of the notable guests will include Vernon Bump, son of early museum director James Dye Bump.
The conference is sponsored by the Museum of Geology at the School of Mines, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service.