From Don Wolberg, a living fossil. \n\nI have admired the scientific and popular writings of Don Prothero for a very long time--he is almost but not quite a living fossil as well. But in some sense he is on the mark with his comments, but in reality all of what he writes is nothing new. In a little paper I published more than a decade ago, and in several public speeches, I noted the situation of paleontology as a profession by taking off from Dickens' "It is the best of times and the worst of times for paleontology." The "best of times" was characterized for example by our creating a series (5)exhibits of dinosaurs and other fossils, aptly named "DINOFEST" ever done anywhere (the largest 138,0000 sq.ft., and the other almost 200,000 sq. ft.are still the largest exhibits of their kind ever done), and a series of newspaper, radio and television events associated with the exhibits, and seeing crowds approaching 800,000 (paid) admissions. Other smaller exhibits remain popular at museums. We managed to find the dollars for funding these multi-million dollar efforts, reflecting not my "smarts" for accomplishing this, but more reflecting the great, great popularity for everything dinosaur and fossil. Disney, Discovery Channel, PBS, Fox, etc., did not pay attention to owr projects because of me, but because of the popularity of the subject among people of all ages. The dinosaur named "Sue" discovered by the Pete and Neal Larson of South Dakota and Susan Henderson is an icon because of this popularity.\n\nSimilalry, amazing discoveries and publications describing new fossils of all kinds has added to the richness of our understanding of the history of life on this world over more than 3.5 billion years, changing environments, discovery of significant energy resources,providing that need dimension to evolutionary studies (actual organisms)and the evolution of our own species. Fossils are also a remarkable tool for interesting people in science. I recall speaking at an inner city Philadelphia school wher it is likely more than half the kids never got through high school, and all the other horrors of our society, but there was remarkable interest by the kids, ages 10-13, in dinosaurs. One can teach astronomy to zoology using dinosaurs and fossils as the departure point.\n\nOn the other hand, it is "the worst of times" in that Prothero is correct that there are very few "paying" positions in paleontology. All of us have friends who have lived very much hand to mouth on temporary appointments, ancillary position not related to paleontology, or nothing more than voluntary, non-paying "research" appointments at museums or colleges, most of which do not even provide office space, lab facilities, or telephone.However, I suggest that this has long been the case, if not always the case, and is not much different than that found in classical archaeology or astronomy or many other areas of science. That the numbers of unempoloyed or underemployed are large, and larger today than before is certain. Prothero's 10% finding employment may be accurate or not--I suspect that it represents the 10% around at any point in time, but a more accurate number is likely to be 5% or less that will find permanent positions. That will not change. Unfortunately, there is little of no self-control by practioners of the profession, those that do have jobs, to slow the rate at which they encourage people to become graduate students or slow the rate of "production" of new people that they know will enter a market where most likely they will never be able to support themselves, never mind families, by employment in that profession.\n\nUnfortunately, Prothero is completely correct that as the seniors in the profession retire, their positions will not be filled by younger paleontologists. Colleges will go elsewhere to fill positions. In this sense, it is likely that the numbers of graduates will decline simply because there will be fewer and fewer paleontologists at colleges and universities. This is at once depressing and unfortunate. It is likely that we have discovered less than 1-5% of the fossil record of life that is available for discovery. Fewer workers mean less and less an opportunity to discover that remaining 95% or more. In the San Juan Basin, for example, in places that I roam now and then in the Upper Cretaceous and Lower Tertiary, there is more land area of rock exposures for this interval than there is land area in the state of Indiana. Thee may be only 1-3 paleontolgists walking these exposures each year. The Indiana comparison makes the point I think.\n\nThe money issue is significant. I estimate that perhaps $2.5 million dollars is directly spent on research in paleontoloy of all organisms each year for all paleontologists studying all organisms in the WORLD. By comparison, and unfortunately, the Mars program, early on an effort to discover the paleontolgy of Mars (searching for Martian life) has accomplished great things. Sadly there seems to be no life on Mars and life may well never have existed on Mars. The cost of the Mars effort to find life's origin there, amounts to "billions and billions," ala Carl Sagan. More money has been spent to show water runs (or ran) downhill on Mars and erodes rocks there as well than has ever been spent trying to discover life's origins and history in the only laboratory fo life we have anywhere in the universe, right here on Earth by all the paleontologists that have ever lived.