For the more information about the geologic resources of the National Park Service, please visit http://www.nature.nps.gov/geology/.


Paleontological Resource Inventory

Grand Canyon Natonal Park, Arizona
Field survey being conducted by Geoscientist-in-the-Parks participant Scott Cheruba at Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona.

The establishment of baseline paleontological resource data is essential for the appropriate management of fossils found within National Park Service (NPS) areas. Although 246 NPS areas have been identified with paleontological resources, only a small percentage of those parks have adequate baseline paleontological resource data. In conjunction with the NPS Geologic Resources Division and NPS Inventory and Monitoring (I&M) Networks, paleontological resource surveys have been conducted in dozens of parks Servicewide. Learn more about NPS Paleontological Resource Inventory Strategies and Methodology.

There are three main paleontological resource inventory strategies:

  1. Comprehensive Park-specific Surveys,
  2. Servicewide Thematic Surveys,
  3. I&M Network Based Surveys.

The comprehensive park-specific inventories are field-based. The other inventory strategies are accomplished primarily though extensive literature searches and personnel interviews.


Comprehensive Park-specific Surveys

Comprehensive paleontological resource surveys have been completed in Yellowstone National Park, Death Valley National Park, Arches National Park, Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, and Walnunt Canyon National Monument.. Similar surveys are currently underway at Big Bend National Park, Joshua Tree National Monument, Zion National Park, and at a number of parks in Alaska.

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Servicewide Thematic Surveys

Servicewide thematic paleontological resource inventories are designed to compile data regarding specific types of paleontological resources which occur in parks throughout the NPS. The first thematic paleontological resource inventory accomplished was an inventory of fossil vertebrate tracks from NPS areas (Santucci et al. 1998). Through this thematic inventory, a total of nineteen NPS units were identified as preserving fossil vertebrate tracks. Subsequent discoveries have increased the number of parks identified with fossil vertebrate tracks to twenty-five (Santucci et al. 2006). Another example of a thematic paleontological resource inventory is the inventory of paleontological resources associated with NPS caves (Santucci et al. 2001).

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I&M Network Based Surveys

Paleontological Resource Inventory Summary Reports provide a comprehensive summary and bibliography of published and unpublished literature regarding paleontological resources in parks. The reports serve as an important reference for park planning documents, future paleontological research and on-the-ground surveys. Report preparation involves an intensive review of existing literature; acquisition and application of geologic maps; rectifying nomenclatural issues with geologic formation names; conducting interviews with park staff, university faculty and geologists from the U.S. Geologic Survey and state geologic surveys; and researching museum and park collections, libraries, and files for relevant geologic and paleontological resource data and information.

Geologic and paleontological information from all of these sources for each park is complied and summarized in a written report, including individual narratives specific to each park. Each report synthesizes information regarding the scope and significance of fossils documented in and near each network park. Paleontological information is assessed and organized based on taxonomy, stratigraphy, and paleoecology. Each report is subject to peer review by professional geologists, paleontologists, and staff from each park for accuracy prior to final publication. The reports are designed to consolidate paleontological resource data and information for each park in the I&M network to support management operations and decision-making.

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Last Updated: March 11, 2014