Digging up stream beds, river banks, flood plains, and road cuts and analyzing the resulting boxes of dirt and rock is time consuming and expensive. Also, many promising sites are being covered with human developments or preserved from potential erosion with large boulders or rip rap.
But are museum collections representative of what is found in nature? Maybe the curator just looked for T-rex teeth and flies in amber.
Susan Barbour Wood of Stuart, Va., a Ph.D. student in geosciences at Virginia Tech, compared the biodiversity of the mollusk collection from the Chesapeake region at the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville with bulk samples collected from five geological formations in the Chesapeake Bay area. She will report her findings at the 116th annual meeting of the Geological Society of America in Denver Nov. 7-10.
"It takes a lot of money to collect fossil-laden sediments from the field. Museum collections are already collected and sorted by the type of organism. If museum collections are representative of what is found in nature, it makes the research easier in terms of cost and time," Barbour Wood said. So I am comparing my bulk collections, time period by time period." Martinsville is near her home and the university and has extensive collections representative in terms of diversity and abundance compared to the mollusks preserved as fossils in nature from these time periods.
A bulk collection is "when you chop a cubic meter of sediment out of a river bank, for instance," Barbour Wood said. "The larger the sample, or more samples you collect, the more likely you are going to get all of the pr
Contact: Susan Trulove