Curse of T. rex
To debate ownership by researchers and commercial dealers of fossils found on
- copy of "Digging Fossils" student handout
Divide the class in half, assigning one group to represent scientists and the
other group to represent commercial dealers. Copy and distribute the "Digging Fossils" student handout.
As they watch, have students do Part I,
taking notes on major goals and issues their group has about collecting,
buying, and selling fossils from public land.
After the program, propose to students that a fossil-rich site has been discovered on
public land. Have each group of students work together to develop the strongest
argument for their claimant (scientists or commercial dealers), using what they
learned from the program and the focus questions in Part II of the
"Digging Fossils" student handout. Then have students present their arguments.
To follow up, point out that scientists and commercial dealers are not always
at odds. Have students evaluate the program's proposed solution and suggest
additional ways to enable the competing groups to work together.
Who should have access to fossils found on public land is not a
clear-cut issue. Students might consider several points: the fairness of
allowing only certain groups access to public land, how fossils provide the raw
data from which scientists reconstruct the past, and how the unavailability or
inaccurate collection of fossils might affect scientific progress.
The scientists group might raise the following issues: Commercial dealers often
do not collect carefully, omitting important contextual data such as other
fossils that lie nearby, or clues as to how the animal died. By paying private
land owners for access to their land, commercial dealers inflate the value of
fossils and prohibit access to academic collectors who cannot afford to pay.
Fossils collected by commercial dealers are sometimes not documented
The commercial dealers group might argue: They are unfairly blamed for the bad
work of a few. They invest a lot of money and time to collect and prepare
fossils and should be paid accordingly. They often collect and preserve fossils
that would otherwise have been lost to erosion.