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Paleontology Services

ECORP provides a full range of Paleontology Services for public and private sector clients when fossils are likely to or are known to exist on a project site. Our paleontologists are fully versed in the procedures to comply with environmental regulations as stipulated by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) as well as those defined by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and other federal, state, and local agencies.

What are Paleontological Resources?

Paleontological resources are the remains of now-extinct organisms. These can be the remains of plants or animals. Because they are extinct, we want to collect representative samples of these organisms in the field to allow scientists to learn about the environment they lived in and how that environment differs from today. Fossils expand the scientific understanding of earth’s paleontologic past.

Paleontology Services: Excavation of fossils at a bone bed
ECORP Paleontologists excavate fossils from a bone bed.

Paleontology Services from ECORP

ECORP works with all the agencies having jurisdiction on your behalf during the permitting process. Our long-standing professional relationships with agency staff benefit our clients because the agencies know our capabilities and trust our applications to be complete and accurate.

Paleontology Services: Paleontologist prepares a camel leg bone for excavation
Paleontologist prepares a camel leg bone for excavation.

The Paleontology Services provided by ECORP’s professional and scientific staff include the following: 

Literature and Map Reviews

ECORP staff are experts at reviewing existing maps and literature in written, film and digital formats. Our professionals access the wealth of paleontological data collected by educational institutions, museums, government agencies, and individuals over decades of study and research. The data sources include papers, studies, histories, maps, and other related material gathered by local, State, and Federal government agencies. We use these documents to help us identify sensitive geological units and their potential to produce paleontological resources.

Paleontology Services: ECORP Paleontologist removes a small fossil discovered during construction monitoring
ECORP Paleontologist removes a small fossil discovered during construction monitoring.
Paleontology Services: paleontological field survey and assessment
ECORP archaeologists and paleontologists perform a field survey that can yield evidence of fossils, bones, or other paleontological resources.

Field Surveys and Assessments

We offer field surveys and assessments to develop your site’s Potential Fossil Yield Classification (PFYC) for BLM projects and the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (SVP) classification for others. Both are predictive models for identifying areas that are likely to produce fossils of scientific interest. 

We are skilled at applying these two complex systems to develop a map of your site delineating all highly sensitive and other geologic units of interest.

Paleontologic Site Assessments

ECORP staff creates Paleontologic Site Assessments using the research, reviews, and fieldwork prepared for your project. This enables us to identify and populate the required reports. Depending upon the agency with jurisdiction, we support these reports, among others:

Paleontology Services: discovery of a bone bed
ECORP paleontologists discover a bone bed and begin preparing the fossilized samples for excavation.
Paleontology Services: whale fossil being removed with an excavator
ECORP Paleontologists supervise removal of a whale fossil using an excavator.

Paleontology Impact Assessments

Applications for CEQA and NEPA permits often require assessments of the potential impact on paleontological resources. For example, under CEQA, the threshold of significance asks whether a project will result in “the direct or indirect destruction of a unique paleontologic resource or site.” When the answer is yes, CEQA requires a Paleontological Resources Mitigation and Monitoring Plan (PRMMP) or similar plan as part of the permit application documents.

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) permits are similar but require federal agencies to assess the environmental effects of their proposed actions prior to making decisions. ECORP’s Paleontology Impact Assessments fully satisfy both state and federal agency requirements.

Paleontological Mitigation Plans

If there is a likelihood of finding fossils during construction, applicants are required to create a Paleontological Mitigation Plan to identify and recover fossils encountered during grading, trenching, and other activities disturbing the site.

Elements of the mitigation plan involve detailed descriptions of the geology of the project site, results of the record search and published and unpublished literature, key personnel for the project, laws and regulations protecting paleontological resources, and fossil recovery, preparation and curation process.

We support these Paleontological Mitigation Plans:

paleontologist monitoring construction for fossils
ECORP Paleontologist monitors ongoing construction for signs of fossils or bones.

Construction Monitoring

ECORP Paleontology Services include construction monitoring when the agency requires it as a condition or requirement of permit approval. We place trained paleontologists onsite where ground disturbance will take place within un-disturbed geologic units that have been known to produce fossils. If a fossil is unearthed, the paleontological monitor has the authority to divert construction equipment away from the fossil site until the scientific significance of the fossil is assessed and all pertinent scientific information is collected.

Paleontology Services: mammoth tusk preserved for transportation in plaster jacket
A mammoth tusk is preserved in a plaster to prevent damage during transportation from the project site.

Some scientific information that will be collected includes: 

Fossil Preservation and Preparation

If a paleontological resource is found to be significant, the monitor will take steps to preserve and prepare the fossil for removal and transportation. Basic tools including brushes and dental picks may be used to clean the fossil. 

If the fossil is fragile or too large to extract, a plaster jacket may be used to prevent the fossil from being damaged during removal.

Paleontology Services: preparation of mammoth tusk for curation
ECORP paleontologist displays a fossilized mammoth tusk being prepared for curation.
Paleontologist monitoring construction site
Paleontologist monitoring a construction site at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in San Diego County.

Fossil Curation

An essential part of a paleontology resource mitigation plan is a curation agreement with an accredited repository willing to house any paleontological discoveries made on a project. Since project proponents are responsible for curation costs, obtaining these costs is part of the project’s financial due diligence. ECORP Paleontology Services negotiate the curation agreement on your behalf and work with the accredited repository to provide an estimate of costs. This agreement becomes part of the mitigation plan.

Learn More about ECORP’s Paleontology Services

When your project will or can impact paleontology resources, talk to ECORP about our comprehensive Paleontology Services. Our exceptional staff, unmatched knowledge of regulations and processes and professional working relationships with Federal, State, and local regulatory agencies make us the best choice for your project.

Contact ECORP today to discuss your project and learn more about our Paleontology Services. .