Field cataloguing

SUMMARY: Peter Fenton, technician at the Royal Ontario Museum, describes how fossil discoveries are catalogued and the importance of keeping an exact record of every discovery. (2:07)

Palaeontologists writing down notes on fossils
DESCRIPTION: Palaeontologists writing down notes on fossils

"Cataloguing actually begins in the field. So we note everything we find.

Palaeontologist splits rock with hammer, cleans with brush
DESCRIPTION: Palaeontologist splits rock with hammer, cleans with brush

"Rocks are split open, rocks are broken open, rocks are trimmed with rock saws. And we do a sort of a cursory cleaning in the field. Just to get as much of the dust and dirt off as possible."

Palaeontologists taking notes on fossils
DESCRIPTION: Palaeontologists taking notes on fossils

"And then, for instance what we will do, usually in the evenings, is we sort of do a rough cataloguing at first, to provide that list to Parks that shows exactly what we've collected for the day, and throughout the entire season."

Fenton shows a specific fossil to explain designations
DESCRIPTION: Fenton shows a specific fossil to explain designations

"Every specimen is given several different numbers or designations. For example if you look on the back of this particular rock is RQ which stands for Raymond Quarry, so the specimen is given a locality identifier. 9.8, which is the level, we mark what level we actually extracted this rock from, and then it's given a field designation. In this case it's 93, 1161A. The 93 is the year it was collected, 1993, and in this case it's the 1,161st specimen collected."

Palaeontologists finding chunks of rock
DESCRIPTION: Palaeontologists finding chunks of rock

"And the A is important because if we find, for instance, a piece of talus, that's just that loose rock sitting on the surface, odds are that this is all we're going to find of this one specimen."

Fenton shows both halves of an excavated rock
DESCRIPTION: Fenton shows both halves of an excavated rock

"This however, is one that was excavated. So as it was excavated, since we would have originally found the rock like this, we would have split it open with a chisel and the fossil itself is on both sides. So one we call a part and one we call a counterpart. One is then given a designation of, in this case, 1161 A and 1161 B."

Parks Canada employees inspecting fossils, making notes
DESCRIPTION: Parks Canada employees inspecting fossils, making notes

"At the end of the season, Parks Canada officials come and check that list, and they make sure everything is accounted for. It's a lot of paperwork. But because we do that, we also have incredibly accurate records."