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FIGURE 2.8 Sketch of a suspected small dinosaur track from the Middle Jurassic Sundance Formation of Wyoming, with measurements included and indicators of where measurements were taken on the specimen. An observer may have a different definition of "width" and "length" of a track that would be difficult to determine through only a verbal description, whereas the sketch shows clearly what was measured.

FIGURE 2.8 Sketch of a suspected small dinosaur track from the Middle Jurassic Sundance Formation of Wyoming, with measurements included and indicators of where measurements were taken on the specimen. An observer may have a different definition of "width" and "length" of a track that would be difficult to determine through only a verbal description, whereas the sketch shows clearly what was measured.

data set for the dinosaur tracks, the standard deviation would be 6.3 cm, so the sample then can be described as having a mean and standard deviation of 74.3 and 6.3 cm, respectively.

Good scientists also report units of measurement after the numbers. Otherwise, someone examining the data has no idea what parameter was measured (meters, liters, or rutabagas). In the example provided, the average length may be important because not all dinosaur tracks are as large or small as the average. Sketches of measured specimens, showing exactly what was measured, are also extremely helpful for follow-up research (Fig. 2.8). A detailed description, preferably with illustrations and careful measurements, will communicate results better and encourage further study of a paleontological find.

Most professional paleontologists have had experience with amateur paleontologists who have incredible skills at discerning fossils in places where many experts have looked before but have never found any. One way to explain the skills of these people is that they have developed a very efficient search pattern, which helps them sift through all the extraneous or otherwise distracting stimuli and instantly focus on their objective. Paleontologists who have not developed a similarly efficient search pattern and do not understand the combination of experience and talent behind it might simply refer to that person as lucky. Although some people may have an obvious knack for finding fossils, training to look for them is continually self-correcting and incorporates education about gathering both qualitative and quantitative data. This training is probably the best way to ensure the development of improved fossil-finding abilities, whether in looking for dinosaur fossils or other fossils.

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