Resource Monitoring

two images of lake level
Monitoring lake level fluctuations relative to the location of a dinosaur trackway in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.
What are paleontological resources?
A paleontological resource, or fossil, is any evidence of ancient life preserved in a geologic context. Examples include:
  • leaves
  • bones
  • teeth
  • shells
  • footprints and trackways
  • an organism's burrow
  • feces
Why does the National Park Service monitor paleontological resources?
Fossils are non-renewable which means they are irreplaceable pieces of the past. Once a fossil is gone, it is gone forever. Paleontological resources provide educational and scientific opportunities for visitors and paleontologists.

Vital Signs Monitored
  1. Erosion (geologic factors)
  2. Erosion (climatic factors)
  3. Catastrophic geohazards
  4. Hydrology and bathymetry
  5. Human access and public use

Geological Monitoring Book
Chapter 8

Paleontological resources have great scientific and educational value. Fossils connect us to the history of life, past climates, and ancient landscapes. The actual fossil remains are, of course, important to study but paleontologists also gather information from the surrounding geologic context (type of rock, specific layer, other plant and animal fossils nearby, etc.). The context provides the story to go along with the remains.

Visitors to national parks where fossils have been discovered have an opportunity to interpret a fossil's ecological context by observing fossils in the same place where those animals and plants lived millions of years ago. Fossils also provide clues about how organisms responded to ecosystem changes in the past-important information for today's changing world.

The National Park Service monitors paleontological resources and the associated geologic context to provide educational and scientific opportunities for visitors and paleontologists of this and future generations. The National Park Service does not collect every fossil that is discovered. Generally fossils are left in the ground and monitored unless they are rare, particularly well preserved, or of scientific or educational value.