Paleo Publication Staff Celebrate Milestone

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Authors of what began at the University of Kansas in the 1940s as a modest two-volume encyclopedia are celebrating publication of their 49th volume — weighing in at 956 pages — with an international video conference today.

Known worldwide as the most comprehensive reference for the study of invertebrate fossils, the “Treatise of Invertebrate Paleontology” is an ever-expanding project of the KU Paleontological Institute, housed in Lindley Hall. It involves more than 300 authors worldwide.

“The treatise is the gold standard of the science of invertebrates,” said Paul Selden, the Gulf-Hedberg Distinguished Professor of Geology and director of the Paleontological Institute. “Everything in the treatise is written by the experts, so it’s the last word for anyone studying these animals.”

The treatise keeps changing as discoveries in the field occur, Selden said. The original two volumes, spearheaded by the late KU professor Raymond C. Moore, were revised and expanded into six, for example.

“Like a dictionary,” Selden said, “entries in the volumes change, disappear or are modified over time as new science yields new information in the field.”

The two main organizers of the latest revision, Scottish researcher Sir Alwyn Williams and KU professor Roger Kaesler, did not live to see the most recent volume published and will be honored today during the international teleconference, hosted by KU. Kaesler, who died in August, was the director of the Paleontological Institute at KU for more than 20 years.

The teleconference, which will involve Lawrence, London and Glasgow, will bring together researchers worldwide and mark the formal completion of the latest volume. It is the first volume to include a CD-ROM of information. Selden said future versions of the treatise will be online.

In the meantime, it’s already time to begin revising the information contained in the 49th volume.

“The day it arrived in our offices, we had already received a call from one of the authors calling for revisions,” Selden said.

The Paleontological Institute is a unit of KU’s Biodiversity Institute, a university research unit that also includes the Natural History Museum.

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