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The University of Wyoming

Department of Geology and Geophysics

Collection of Fossil Vertebrates
(a component of the Departmental Scientific Collections)


Statement of Policies for the Scientific Collections


Departmental Committee on Scientific Collections

Mark Clementz, Chairman
B. Ronald Frost
Barbara E. John

Approved by the Department of Geology and Geophysics April 27, 1995 (reviewed and updated annually)


CONTENTS:

Purposes of the Collections
Administrative Responsibility for the Collections
Listing and Description of the Collections
Existing Collections
Collection of Rocks and Minerals
Collection of Fossil Invertebrates
Collection of Fossil Vertebrates
Recommended New Collection
Collection of Voucher Specimens for Theses, Dissertations, and Published Research
Access to the Collections and Associated Data
Policy on Acquisition
Commencement of Ownership of, or Principal Responsibility for, Scientific Specimens
Appraisals and Identifications of Acquisitions and Other Materials
Specimen Records
Policy on Loans
Selective Destruction of Specimens through Research
Disposal of Specimens and/or Collections
Regularized Review of Policies


GENERAL POLICIES:

Purposes of the Collections

The Departmental Scientific Collections of the Department of Geology and Geophysics (hereafter referred to as "DSC") represent a non-profit, educational and research facility that is dedicated to preservation, increase, and dissemination of knowledge associated with the integrated science of geology/paleontology. To accomplish those purposes, samples of rocks, minerals, and fossils are collected, documented, preserved, studied, and used for instructional purposes. The collections are intended to serve the training and scholarship in Earth-sciences of individuals at The University of Wyoming, within the State of Wyoming, across the nation, and throughout the world. Use of specimens within the collections forms a basis for the documentation and continuing reappraisal of the history of Earth and its included biota. The collections form, therefore, an integral component of the combined teaching and research missions of the Department of Geology and Geophysics. Results of research based upon these collections as set forth in theses, dissertations, reports, and scientific publications, combined with preservation of the tangible specimens of the research themselves, become part of the general, verifiable body of mankind's geological and paleontological knowledge.

Administrative Responsibility for the Collections

DSC comprises an integral educational component of the Department of Geology and Geophysics. Principal administrative responsibility for the various collections resides within the Departmental Committee on Scientific Collections, a faculty committee that answers by way of its Chairman to the Head of the Department of Geology and Geophysics. Membership and Chairmanship of the Departmental Committee are appointed annually by the Head of the Department. The main responsibilities of the Departmental Committee on Scientific Collections are to: (1) establish and revise policies for maintenance and routine operation of the departmental collections; and (2) direct and supervise the curatorial activities of the Collections Manager. Principal spokesman for the Departmental Committee shall be its Chairman. The Departmental Committee shall work closely with research and educational needs specific to the Department of Geology and Geophysics.

Specimens and their associated data within DSC also are held in public trust for the world's scientific community. Administration of the collections is committed to establishing and maintaining high standards of professional and ethical conduct in all of DSC's actions. The Departmental Committee on Scientific Collections recognizes its responsibility toward: (1) ensuring coherent growth, development, care, and use of the various collections within DSC; (2) preventing loss of its collections and associated data through natural deterioration, mismanagement, inappropriate use, or indiscriminate dispersal of specimens; and (3) maintaining access for bona fide members of the scientific community to sites from which specimens were derived.

Listing and Description of the Collections

Existing Collections

Three major collections exist within the Department of Geology and Geophysics. These are the:

Collection of Rocks and Minerals
Collection of Fossil Invertebrates
Collection of Fossil Vertebrates

A brief description of each collection follows.

Collection of Rocks and Minerals

The Collection of Rocks and Minerals is used primarily to teach classes in mineralogy and igneous and metamorphic petrology. The teaching collection for mineralogy is satisfactory. Several hundred mineral specimens are labeled and cataloged by group. Some uncataloged minerals also are included. This collection is fairly well curated, and therefore can be used for classes. The teaching collection for igneous and metamorphic petrology is adequate, but not excellent. The petrology collection is poorly curated. This collection is useful in teaching mineral identification, but many rocks lack corresponding thin sections and information on locations of samples. The collection therefore has only limited utility in petrology classes. As a result, most of the specimens and suites used in the petrology courses are those from personal collections of petrologists in the department.

We also have collections from a wide variety of ore deposits, some of which were accumulated decades ago. Unfortunately, only a few samples contain polished sections, and they are numbered using a different system from the main samples. When the main samples and their corresponding polished sections become properly correlated, the entire collection will become an important tool for teaching. Additionally, the suites represent an important resource to the research community, because many samples came from mines that no longer are in operation. Investigators, therefore, no longer have access to the host rocks, ores, and associated alteration products of these deposits except by way of our collections.

Collection of Fossil Invertebrates

The taxonomic collection of macroinvertebrate fossils occupies 36 Lane cabinets, involving approximately 1,800 square feet of drawer space. Primary types and other specimens illustrated in publications are segregated in one of these cabinets, and five others house thesis collections. Wooden cabinets with some 250 square feet of drawer space hold the teaching collections. The museum balcony cases provide 700 square feet of drawer space filled with stratigraphic collections. Since a new numbering system was established in 1951, slightly less than 5,000 numbers have been assigned. Many of these are for species lots, each of which includes numerous specimens. An estimated 45,500 specimens exist within the cataloged collection. Approximately 16,000 specimens remain uncataloged.

Collection of Fossil Vertebrates

For research purposes, the Collection of Fossil Vertebrates is the most important of the various departmental collections. It holds over 40,000 numbered specimen records (many have two or more included specimens). The collection emphasizes Upper Cretaceous and Cenozoic faunas from the Rocky Mountain region, especially from the various Laramide basins of Wyoming. The Collection of Fossil Vertebrates is recognized by the general paleontological community as a nationally important research resource. The collection is supplemented by various curatorial files, an extensive map collection, a large assemblage of cast-oriented teaching materials, and one of the nation's most complete scientific reprint collections related to the disciplines of vertebrate paleontology and Rocky Mountain stratigraphy. A small assemblage of fossil plants is maintained as part of the Collection of Fossil Vertebrates.

Recommended New Collection

Additional to the existing collections described above, the Departmental Committee on Scientific Collections recommends that the following be established within the Department of Geology and Geophysics, as a service to the general geological research community:

Collection of Voucher Specimens for Theses, Dissertations, and Published Research

Establishment of this collection would initiate a policy that long has been overdue within the Department of Geology and Geophysics. Specifically, the collection is intended to preserve, and make available into the indefinite future, voucher specimens of rocks and minerals that were specifically referred to in research completed by departmental scholars. Preservation of such specimens, cited within theses, dissertations, reports, and publications, would: (1) provide opportunity for future research on the same specimens when new techniques may become available; (2) reduce the necessity of returning to, and relocating, the precise field sampling areas of the original research; and (3) allow opportunities for independent challenge, or verification, of reported results of research. Establishment of this sort of collection would add greatly to the future utility of research done within the Department of Geology and Geophysics. The professional tradition of verifiability of specimen-data has been a hallmark of paleontological research that now should be applied more broadly to the disciplines of mineralogy, petrology, and sedimentology.

Access to the Collections and Associated Data

We actively encourage original scientific research and educational use based upon specimens and data within DSC. Principal users are expected to be formally enrolled graduate students in the Department of Geology and Geophysics, members of the staff and faculty of The University of Wyoming, authorized visiting scholars, and known reputable scientists throughout the world. Such scholars will be considered bona fide members of the scientific community. Departmental collections are available for study by these individuals, following normal security procedures, and loans of specimens can be made to them locally, nationally, and internationally. In the case of a request for collection use from a worker previously unknown to individuals responsible for DSC, permission for access to a specific collection is contingent upon judgment of the curator in charge of that collection. First-time users of the collection are best advised to provide information, in advance of their visit, to the Collection Manager of DSC about their institutional affiliation and their specific needs for access. Contract or commercial users of the collections may be charged a fee, payable to the Department of Geology and Geophysics. For the personal protection of private land-owners and the preservation of State/Federal scientific resources, locality data associated with the Collection of Fossil Vertebrates are considered to be proprietary. Precise locality data from that collection normally will not be made available to commercial dealers in fossil vertebrates.

Full access to collections within DSC is not an inherent right of the general public. While those responsible for DSC will be sympathetic to, and will attempt to be cooperative with, any serious, educationally based request for access, the collections or their associated records are not open to random browsing. For the security of the collections, routine access is restricted to bona fide scientific users, as individually recognized in advance of the visit by the Collections Manager, Department Head, or an appropriate member of the Departmental Committee on Scientific Collections. Individuals in charge of specific collections may make special, supervised arrangements for visitors from the general public. As a general statement, the extent of access to the collections by visitors shall be determined individually, upon evaluation of the need for access and the qualifications of the requestor. It is essential that personnel actually using the collections be reliable, responsible, mature, and versed in the requirements of specimen handling. If provisions for adequate security are not available, visitors arriving without a prearranged appointment may not be admitted to collection areas. In no case shall a visitor be permitted to enter the collections unannounced.

Policy on Acquisition

Materials within DSC are of regional, national, and international significance, and are to be used as extensively as possible in bona fide scientific research and education in Earth/life history. Accordingly, holdings within the collections should be kept up-to-date in terms of being usable for research on contemporary scientific issues that are of relevance to personnel at The University of Wyoming. To that end, general improvement through selective collection growth must be a routine characteristic of DSC. Because of its trust responsibility to maintain and preserve scientifically important specimens into perpetuity, however, DSC must not engage in indiscriminate acquisition of new materials; its collections must grow at rates that will not out-distance local abilities to maintain appropriate curatorial standards, including adequacy of resources for secure, responsible storage.

It is expected that DSC will continue to acquire most of its specimens by way of field-work allied to original research conducted by personnel associated with The University of Wyoming. DSC also may accept specimens collected through external contract work, if deemed appropriate by individuals holding responsibility for specific collections within DSC, and if costs of curation are covered adequately by the contract. Gifts and/or bequests to DSC may be accepted, as long as they are appropriate to the evolving missions of DSC and do not impose undue burdens upon available resources, including storage. Exchanges of specimens with other reputable scientific institutions may be effected (especially involving objects from DSC lacking pertinent data), as long as transfer of the specimens does not violate pre-existing agreements on their long-term care, or negatively affect the scientific-educational utility of DSC's collections. Funds permitting, materials may be purchased for addition to the Collection of Rocks and Minerals and the Collection of Fossil Invertebrates; most specimens within these collections can be considered replaceable because of their general abundance in nature. Uniquely, however, we consider vertebrate fossils to be non renewable resources of extraordinary scientific value. There is a strong and rapidly growing commercial market for vertebrate fossils that, for the most part, we believe works to the detriment of research on Earth/life history. To help counteract such trade, DSC specifically prohibits the purchase of fossilized remains of vertebrate animals for the Collection of Fossil Vertebrates.

Every reasonable effort must be made to ensure that items considered for acquisition within DSC have been collected and transported in full compliance with the laws and regulations of the United States, individual states, and, if pertinent, other countries. Student/faculty collecting of fossil vertebrates from Federal or State lands, for example, will be conducted only in light of the provisions of legally required permits. DSC occasionally may receive specimens from governmental agencies that have been derived from procedures of confiscation, or from other activities initiated by the agencies themselves. Acceptance of such specimens by DSC, however, normally can be made only if funding adequate to cover costs of specimen preparation, curation, and long-term storage is agreed to be provided by the offering agency. Title to all specimens acquired for DSC must be obtained free and clear, without restrictions as to use, exhibition, loan, dispersal, or future disposition. All acquisitions by exchange, donation, or purchase must be documented by an invoice. Correspondence covering donations should contain the sense of the following statement: "In donating these items to the Departmental Scientific Collections of the Department of Geology and Geophysics, the donor hereby transfers ownership to The University of Wyoming, and agrees that the items may be integrated into existing collections or used in any way deemed appropriate by the scientific community." DSC cannot and will not guarantee that items donated will be placed on exhibition or that they will be stored intact as a single collection.

To avoid real or apparent conflicts of interest, individuals responsible for collections within DSC should not acquire specimens for personal ownership that compete with research goals of DSC. Also, DSC resources shall not be used for the development or storage of personally owned collections, and personal collections should not be developed by way of field expeditions run under the auspices of DSC.

Commencement of Ownership of, or Principal Responsibility for, Scientific Specimens

The time at which DSC is considered to have taken legal ownership of, or principal responsibility for, a specimen or its associated documentation varies with the method of acquisition. The following sets forth guiding definitions in helping to determine more specific issues:
1. Field collection Specimens collected in the field by individuals working under the auspices of DSC, along with associated written or photographic documentation, are the property of DSC. Ownership begins following conclusion of the expedition, when the individual in charge of the expedition determines which specimens are of value to DSC's permanent collections. In the case of vertebrate fossils collected under valid permits on Federal lands, it is recognized that all specimens and associated documentation remain the property of the United States of America; the entire collections can be retained physically at DSC, however, under mutual agreement of principal responsibility as specified in the collecting permit.
2. Gifts/bequests DSC is considered to own the items when correspondence of donation has been executed legally and when the specimens physically enter DSC.
3. Purchase Ownership commences when DSC has rendered payment for the specimens, subject to conditions of delivery.
4. Exchange Ownership commences when all specimens involved have entered the respective institutions and have been accepted by them.
5. Abandonment Ownership of specimens by DSC commences in accordance with the legal statutes of the State of Wyoming pertaining to abandonment. DSC will be guided by recommendations of legal counsel of The University of Wyoming in any relevant proceedings.

Every member of DSC authorized to acquire specimens for the permanent collections through gift, bequest, purchase, exchange, field collection, or other means will reasonably ensure that valid and legal title can be transferred to and obtained by DSC. To accomplish this, representatives of DSC should consult as widely as is necessary and reasonable among their colleagues locally and/or elsewhere. The degree of consultation advisable in a particular case will vary with significance of the acquisition and circumstances of the transaction. In doubtful cases, representatives of DSC should request assistance from legal counsel of The University of Wyoming.

Appraisals and Identifications of Acquisitions and Other Materials

There can be inherent ethical conflicts of interest when a representative of an organization provides estimates on monetary value of specimens that may be donated to that organization. To avoid such conflicts, no representative of DSC shall provide appraisals of fair market value of gifts for DSC. Potential donors wishing to gain tax deductions may have an independent appraisal made on the value of their gift. Even if requested by a potential donor, DSC personnel should resist recommending a specific appraiser.

As a service to the public, personnel associated with DSC may attempt to identify or authenticate specimens brought to them by the general public. The public should be discouraged, however, from leaving their specimens at DSC. Identifications are best done on an appointment basis, and individuals should take their specimens with them as they leave. Although personnel at DSC will attempt to give all items the same care as any other specimen in the collections, they cannot assume responsibility for damage or loss. Items not claimed within a reasonable time will be considered as abandoned property, and will be disposed of in accordance with University policy on abandonment.

Personnel associated with DSC will not appraise, identify, or otherwise authenticate for other persons or agencies any specimens under circumstances that could encourage or benefit illegal, unethical, or irresponsible traffic in such materials. Identification or authentication may be given for professional or educational purposes, in response to legitimate requests from professional or governmental bodies or their agents.

Specimen Records

Pertinent data associated with geological/paleontological specimens represent an integral part of their histories, and are of paramount importance to their future utility as objects of research and education. Such associated data are of at least the same scientific importance as the specimens themselves. Accordingly, extraordinary effort must be expended to assure protection and accessibility of these data into perpetuity. Associated records also provide the principal means by which DSC establishes its right to legally possess individual specimens. Careful and explicit record-keeping allows DSC to know a specimen's provenance, history, original condition, and aids in its identification and future retrievability. Collection records thus should be made in a timely fashion, housed in secure locations, and physically preserved by proper handling and storage methods, using archival-grade materials whenever practical. When possible, duplicate records should be preserved at a secure location remote from the physical collections.

The specific kinds of specimen and locality records to be kept, as well as their formats, vary greatly among collections within DSC. Interested parties should inquire with the Collections Manager for more specific information. It is a long-term goal of the Departmental Committee on Scientific Collections to develop computer-retrievable specimen/locality records for as many of the holdings within DSC as appropriate. It is a very high priority to establish a multiple-item-search capability for the Collection of Fossil Vertebrates, with records (in accordance with accepted professional standards for the discipline; exclusive of detailed locality data) available to the greater scientific community by way of a public communications network.

Policy on Loans

Loans are temporary physical transfers of specimens and their associated data from one institution to another; no transfer of ownership is involved. DSC regularly makes and receives loans for purposes of research and instruction. Lending and borrowing is undertaken only under terms of a written loan agreement, which simultaneously forms a contract between lender and borrower and specifies the terms, conditions, and responsibilities of each party. It is the responsibility of the Collections Manager to effect all incoming and outgoing loans for DSC, and to properly file all pertinent documentation.

Except under extraordinary conditions, loans from DSC are made to institutions,by way of an individual who accepts responsibility for welfare of the specimen(s) for that institution. Institutional loans are preferred for greater safekeeping, and for the greater likelihood that specimens will be returned should something happen to the borrower, or if the borrower keeps specimens beyond the agreed loan interval. DSC also may accept specimens on loan from other institutions or individuals, and will exercise the same level of care expected of borrowers from DSC. Copies of all loan agreements, both to and from DSC (if that is the formally designated borrower), must be provided to the Collections Manager.

Specimens borrowed from the Collection of Fossil Vertebrates must be sent, securely packed, by some reputable form of registered transport, if not hand carried. Specimens from that collection are lent for up to one year (six months for type specimens), and must be returned, securely packed, by registered transport, if not hand carried; type specimens should be transported only by hand. Recall notices will be sent to borrowers near the end of the loan period. Extensions of loans may be granted, if properly negotiated with the Collections Manager well in advance of the expiration date of the original loan. DSC may recall a loan for any reason, with thirty days written notification. Immediate action may be taken if care of specimens fails to meet conditions of the loan. Specimens are not to be duplicated, or altered in any way, unless prior written consent is given to the borrower by the Collections Manager. No part of the lent material may be transferred to a third party without prior written permission from the Collections Manager. DSC must be notified of any significant address change in location of the lent material. Authors are asked to send at least one copy (to the Collections Manager) of their resulting publications that deal with specimens borrowed from DSC.

DSC will not lend specimens if there exists: (1) reasonable doubt about the item's physical ability to withstand travel; (2) concern about circumstances of use; or (3) evidence of inadequate local conditions for storage. We will not lend specimens to institutions, or to individuals at those institutions, that have demonstrated inability to properly handle or care for requested materials.

Mailing costs for outgoing loans ordinarily are paid by the Department of Geology and Geophysics; shipping costs for materials being returned to DSC ordinarily are paid by the borrower. In exceptional cases, institutions borrowing specimens from DSC may be required to pay for costs of packing, shipping, and related record-keeping. In this case, all lent materials will have insurance coverage paid by the borrowing institution at a value specified by DSC. The borrower may be asked, as well, to deposit with DSC's Collections Manager a certificate of insurance as proof of adequate, agreed-upon levels of coverage.

Selective Destruction of Specimens through Research

Research objectives may necessitate destructive sampling of specimens housed within DSC. As a general statement, intentional destruction of specimens should be allowed only when the potential for gaining significant new knowledge by such means is real, and when such knowledge will be shared with the general scientific community. These procedures must be undertaken in a controlled manner with written approval by an individual having authority over the specific collection in question. All original specimen data, however, should be preserved, even though the specimen itself may have been destroyed through conduct of the research.

Disposal of Specimens and/or Collections

For a variety of reasons, local conditions may suggest that continuing preservation of particular specimens within a larger collection is no longer justifiable. Such specimens may be permanently removed from the collection and given to, or exchanged with, another institution (in both cases an appropriate transfer of title is involved) or discarded. Decisions to dispose of specimens must be made carefully, and are to be made only by an individual having authority over the specific collection in question. Specimen numbers resulting from discarded items are not to be considered vacant, and never are to be re-used for the cataloging of subsequent specimens. Full documentation of all such transferals or discardings must be prepared for the permanent record of the collection by the appropriate curator. In no case shall any specimen deriving from the Collection of Fossil Vertebrates be offered for sale.

Should it come to pass that resources adequate for the maintenance of significant collections within DSC no longer become available, the Departmental Committee on Scientific Collections, in close coordination with the Department Head and legal counsel of the University, should actively seek a reputable educational institution external to The University of Wyoming that would be willing, and able, to accept permanent responsibility for any parts of the orphaned collection that would be legally transferable. We feel strongly that such a transfer of educational resources, unfortunate though it certainly would be, is a lesser evil than inevitable deterioration of the collection through neglect.

Regularized Review of Policies

Members of the Departmental Committee on Scientific Collections will meet with the Collections Manager and Department Head, at least annually, to review general policy and consider significant changes in curatorial procedures within DSC. The principal purpose of such discussions is to assure that existing standards and practices within DSC accurately reflect the long-term research and educational goals of the facility relative to the larger mission of the Department of Geology and Geophysics. Any participant in these meetings, as well as any student or faculty member within the department, may recommend changes in policy as expressed within the present document. If necessary, specific items will be brought for discussion to the general faculty of the Department of Geology and Geophysics and/or to legal counsel of The University of Wyoming. Changes approved by the Departmental Committee on Scientific Collections will be incorporated within subsequent editions of this Statement of Policies.



Administrative Relationships Between the "Geological Museum" and the "Collection of Fossil Vertebrates"
 
 

The following administrative and nomenclatural situations now exist at The University of Wyoming:

1. The historical term "Geological Museum" is restricted to facilities related to public display, and is overseen by the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences; it is separated in all administrative and fiscal respects from the Department of Geology and Geophysics. Mr. Brent H. Breithaupt is Director of the Geological Museum, and his activities focus entirely upon outreach programs for the general public. All aspects of the Geological Museum will remain for the foreseeable future within physical spaces that it occupied in September, 1996.

2. The "Collection of Fossil Vertebrates": 1) deals with all holdings of specimens and associated data related to research and classroom teaching in vertebrate paleontology; 2) is administratively separated in all respects from the Geological Museum; and 3) is a central part of a distinct entity within the Department of Geology and Geophysics called the "Departmental Scientific Collections." Dr. Jason A. Lillegraven serves as the Faculty Curator of Departmental Scientific Collections, and he chairs a departmental committee that has oversight responsibility for the teaching/research collections described in the above policy statement. A full-time, staff technical position (Collections Manager, held by Dr. Michael L. Cassiliano) has been dedicated to the support of our Departmental Scientific Collections. Lillegraven also serves as the immediate supervisor of the Collection Manager's day-to-day activities. All physical aspects of the Collection of Fossil Vertebrates have been moved to facilities within the Earth Sciences Building, occupied in the Fall of 1996.


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