July 19th, 2011

Over the years, one of the most common questions that I receive about doing field research (=collection of specimens) is “Do you just go up to a place and start picking up specimens?” In a word, “sometimes”, but usually one has to get permission from some entity first. I and my research students this year have all had to get permission of some kind in order to collect our specimens.

Rhi and Adric had to collect very different specimens in Nevada (250 million year old marine gastropods vs. 13,000 year old freshwater gastropods, respectively), but both sampling sites are on federal land administered by the Bureau of Land Management. In 2009, Congress passed the Omnibus Public Lands Act, which contained a section entitled Paleontological Resources Preservation (OPLA-PRP), which among many, many other regulations, stipulates the need for permits for the collection of vertebrate fossils. For the IN-vertebrates (such as those studied by Rhi and Adric), no specific permit is required, although it is expected that the scientific collector informs the appropriate regional office of the BLM before work begins. I’ve been collecting in Humboldt County, Nevada for many years and I’ll always make the call sometime before we head out.





Kristie’s collections of Recent freshwater gastropods in Wisconsin are partially from within the Mukwonago River State Natural Area. Since 2005, a small (~40 acre) site enclosing a critical part of the Mukwonago River has been designated SNA #417. We had to file a joint permit request (approved!) with the Wisconsin DNR in order to remove any living or dead biological remains from the area. This type of permit lasts for a period of 1 year, and a final report of all of our findings must be filed with the WI DNR upon completion of the year. In addition, all collected and preserved specimens must be placed within an approved scientific repository for future researchers to have access. Ours will ultimately be added to the Mollusc collections of the Milwaukee Public Museum (MPM), which has a long history of receiving such collections.

Nicole’s fossil vertebrates are from a privately owned and currently active rock quarry in Oklahoma. Dolese Brothers is one of the largest quarrying companies in the southwestern United States, and for safety (and litigation) reasons they simply cannot allow anyone to just go into a quarry at any time and collect. After several years of inquiring and courting the company, we finally secured permission from Dolese Brothers to enter the Richards Spur Quarry near Lawton, OK.  Collection privileges are for one day only, and we must have a company representative accompany us at all times. We’ll take that deal any day!

Three different entities – federal, state and private – and three different levels of permission. Important experiences for undergraduate research students.


2 Responses to “Permission”

  1. Rhi Says:

    And for folks who privately own land—turn on the charm?

  2. juk Says:

    Man I can totally relate to this… I had to get permission from the US Forest Service for collecting rock samples from Mountain, WI. That wasn’t too bad, but getting permission can become a fine art when you’re dealing with tribal community and private landowners and federal land… sometimes being able to turn on the charm on demand becomes an essential skill.

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