Member Bylaw on Ethics Statement

Caenagnathid theropod metatarsals, photo credit: Thomas Holtz

Member Bylaw on Ethics Statement



Several goals for the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology follow from its mission statement (Articles of Incorporation, Article 2, Section 1):

  1. To advance the science of vertebrate paleontology throughout the world;
  2. To serve the common interests and facilitate the cooperation of all persons concerned with the history, evolution, ecology, comparative anatomy and taxonomy of vertebrate animals, as well as the field occurrence, collection and study of fossil vertebrates and the stratigraphy of the beds in which they are found;
  3. To support and encourage the discovery, conservation and protection of vertebrate fossils and fossil sites;
  4. To foster the scientific, educational and personal appreciation and understanding of vertebrate fossils and fossil sites by avocational, student and professional paleontologists and the general public.

Fossil vertebrates are usually unique or rare, nonrenewable scientific and educational resources that, along with their accompanying contextual data, constitute part of our natural heritage. They provide data by which the history of vertebrate life on earth may be reconstructed and are one of the primary means of studying evolutionary patterns and processes as well as environmental change.

Section 1. Professional standards in collection of fossils
It is the responsibility of vertebrate paleontologists to strive to ensure that vertebrate fossils are collected in a professional manner, which includes the detailed recording of pertinent contextual data, such as geographic, stratigraphic, sedimentologic and taphonomic information.

Section 2. Adherence to regulations and property rights
It is the responsibility of vertebrate paleontologists to assist government agencies in the development of management policies and regulations pertinent to the collection of vertebrate fossils, and shall comply with those policies and regulations during and after collection. The necessary permits on all lands administered by federal, state, and local governments, whether domestic or foreign, must be obtained from the appropriate agency(ies) before fossil vertebrates are collected. Collecting fossils on private lands must be done only with the landowner’s consent.

Section 3. Fossil preparation
Fossil vertebrate specimens should be prepared by, or under the supervision of, trained personnel.

Section 4. Deposition of fossil specimens
Scientifically significant fossil vertebrate specimens, along with ancillary data, should be curated and accessioned in the collections of repositories charged in perpetuity with conserving fossil vertebrates for scientific study and education (e.g., accredited museums, universities, colleges and other educational institutions).

Section 5. Publication and education
Information about vertebrate fossils and their accompanying data should be disseminated expeditiously to both the scientific community and the interested general public.

Section 6. Commercial sale or trade
The barter, sale or purchase of scientifically significant vertebrate fossils is not condoned, unless it brings them into, or keeps them within, a public trust. Any other trade or commerce in scientifically significant vertebrate fossils is inconsistent with the foregoing, in that it deprives both the public and professionals of important specimens, which are part of our natural heritage.