Friday, July 24, 2009

International Society calls for reverse of funding cuts

DEERFIELD, IL (July, 2009) - The Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, the organization representing professional vertebrate paleontologists worldwide, has called for a reversal of the decision to close the University Geological Museum in Laramie. In an open letter to the trustees of the University, Prof. Blaire Van Valkenburgh, the president of the Society, has made a strong case for the University of Wyoming to reconsider its decision to close its Geological Museum. She wrote of the Society’s “alarm and dismay at the closing of the display galleries at the ... Museum.”
The Society called the decision to close the museum and terminate exhibit staff “financially shortsighted.” In particular the Society noted that vertebrate paleontologists at institutions like the University of Wyoming are at an advantage when it comes to seeking federal funds because the museum’s exhibits provide a natural conduit for dissemination of their work. Such public engagement with science is an important criterion when federal agencies consider funding research. The closure of the museum will likely negatively impact the ability of geologists at the university to attract federal funds in certain areas.
According to the Society, the relatively low cost required to keep the museum open is far outweighed by the loss to the local and world community if it is allowed to close. Citing the fabulous wealth of fossil vertebrates found in Wyoming, Prof. Van Valkenburgh said that “people, especially children, are fascinated by dinosaurs and other fossil animals, and paleontological displays are a wonderful way to both engage young people in science and promote scientific literacy.”
The museum is well known throughout the world for its dinosaur displays and the prominent role it has played within the scientific community.

About the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology
Founded in 1940 by thirty-four paleontologists, the Society now has more than 2,300 members worldwide representing professionals, students, artists, preparators, and others interested in paleontology. It is organized exclusively for educational and scientific purposes, with the object of advancing the science of vertebrate paleontology.

Blaire's open letter was printed in the Boomerang & Casper Star on July 16.

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