Trump faces ferocious fossil fight

Strategic Professor in Palaeontology John Long, a Past President of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology in the US.

Flinders palaeontologist Professor John Long is part of US legal action over President Donald Trump’s move to downsize the Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments sites in Utah.

As Past President of the US Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (SVP), Professor Long has joined the campaign opposing the cuts to these areas which are home to scientifically significant palaeontological resources. The resources was behind the creation of both monuments.    

Professor Long says the legal action aims to block President Trump’s cuts.

“We need to preserve these globally important palaeontological resources, and the reduction of monument boundaries puts them in danger of being damaged or destroyed completely,” says international expert Professor Long, a co-signatory on the legal notice.

The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is home to a spectacular array of fossil dinosaur specimens. President Bill Clinton designated the area as a national monument in 1996. Photo: Bureau of Land Management.
The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is home to a spectacular array of fossil dinosaur specimens. President Bill Clinton designated the area as a national monument in 1996. Photo: Bureau of Land Management.

“The SVP’s mission is to ‘support and encourage the discovery, conservation and protection of vertebrate fossils and fossil sites’ and for this reason it is imperative that we maintain the integrity of these monuments.”

Professor Long, who is President of the Royal Society of South Australia, researches the evolution of vertebrates in order to unravel the early stages of how the modern vertebrate body plan was assembled.

His work on fossils from the Early Palaeozoic (540-350 million years ago) has yielded many significant discoveries, including the origins of complex sexual reproduction in vertebrates.

In Australia, he has campaigned for the preservation of important fossil sites, such as the remote Gogo field of northern Western Australia, and collaborates with palaeontologists around the world on vertebrate palaeontology projects. 

As well as publishing papers on  ancient marine reptiles, dinosaurs and prehistoric mammals, Professor Long studies early fish faunas from material collected in Antarctica, Australia, Southeast Asia, China, South Africa, North America, Morocco and Iran.

Read more about SVP’s legal action in the US

Lythronax argestes —belonging to the same evolutionary branch as the famous Tyrannosaurus rex — was discovered at the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in 2009. Photo: Mark Lowen / Natural History Museum of Utah.
Lythronax argestes —belonging to the same evolutionary branch as the famous Tyrannosaurus rex — was discovered at the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in 2009. Photo: Mark Lowen / Natural History Museum of Utah.
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