Paleontology is one of the most visible yet most misunderstood fields of science. Children dream of becoming paleontologists when they grow up. Museum visitors flock to exhibits on dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals. The media reports on fossil discoveries and new clues to mass extinctions. Nonetheless, misconceptions abound: paleontologists are assumed only to be interested in dinosaurs and they are all too often pictured as bearded white men in battered cowboy hats.
Roy Plotnick provides a behind-the-scenes look at paleontology as it exists today in all its complexity. He explores the field's aims, methods, and possibilities, with an emphasis on the compelling personal stories of the scientists who have made it a career. Paleontologists study the entire history of life on Earth; they do not only use hammers and chisels to unearth fossils but are just as likely to work with cutting-edge computing technology. Plotnick presents the big questions about life's history that drive paleontological research and shows why knowledge of Earth's past is essential to understanding present-day environmental crises. He introduces readers to the diverse group of people of all genders, races, and international backgrounds who make up the twenty-first-century paleontology community, foregrounding their perspectives and firsthand narratives. He also frankly discusses the many challenges that face the profession, with key takeaways for aspiring scientists. Candid and comprehensive, Explorers of Deep Time is essential reading for anyone curious about the everyday work of real-life paleontologists.
Roy Plotnick is professor emeritus in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is a fellow of the Geological Society of America and the Paleontological Society.
"Dr. Plotnick's personal anecdotes about his journey through his paleontological career are enjoyable to read. He has had a lot of fun in what can be a very challenging field, and it shows – this book will inspire younger generations to pick up the torch."
– Victoria Arbour, Curator of Palaeontology, Royal BC Museum
"Plotnick neatly demonstrates why paleontology is relevant to the modern world of cloud data and smartphones – and perhaps more relevant than ever due to the accelerated rate of climate change in the twenty-first century. His frank discussions of some all-too-familiar issues facing paleontologists in their workplaces (be they museums or universities) will be helpful knowledge to students and professionals alike."
– Lee Hall, paleontology field professional, Museum of the Rockies