Over the past decade, a team of National Park Service (NPS) paleontologists and partners has been helping to uncover and record a 1-billion-year fossil record of life preserved throughout the National Park System. Fossilized remains or traces of ancient plants, invertebrates, vertebrates, and microbes have been documented in at least 237 national parks in this first system-wide paleontological resource inventory (fig. 1). Through intensive research and data mining that could be regarded as “paleoblitzes,” scientists have been collecting, compiling, and synthesizing baseline paleontological resource data, greatly expanding our knowledge and understanding of the scope, significance, and distribution of national park fossils. Additionally, this inventory work addresses provisions of the Paleontological Resources Preservation Act (2009) that enhance our abilities to manage, protect, interpret, and better undertake scientific research on park fossils.
The National Park Service initiated this system-wide paleontological resource inventory in 2001, based upon a plan to incrementally and systematically survey the 32 networks of parks in the Inventory and Monitoring (I&M) Program. As surveys progressed scientists wrote paleontological resource inventory reports for each I&M network, summarizing fossil resources for each park in the network. These summaries highlight park geology, known and potential paleontological resources, fossil specimens kept in NPS museum collections or at outside repositories, resource management issues, comprehensive bibliographies, and a list of recommendations for future work aimed at conserving these resources. In 2002, the first such report—for the Northern Colorado Plateau Network—was completed. Last December the Central Alaska Network was the final piece and now all 32 networks have been inventoried. As a result of this work, the number of parks in the National Park System identified with paleontological resources essentially doubled.
Santucci, V. L., J. S. Tweet, and J. P. Kenworthy. 2012. Paleoblitz: Uncovering the fossil record of the national parks. Park Science 29(1):29–32.
Available at http://www.nature.nps.gov/ParkScience/archive/PDF/Article_PDFs/ParkScience29(1)SpringSummer2012_29-32_Santucci_et_al_2866.pdf.