I suspect that most people who read this magazine do so because of their amateur love of fossils and geology. They are interested in geology and palaeontology on a curious rather than academic or professional level. However, there are no doubt some – perhaps at university or have just left tertiary education – who are currently wondering whether their interest in fossils can be used for more remunerative purposes. It is at these, and the graduate who has just started to apply his or her geological expertise to their first job, that this book is aimed.
However, it is not an easy book to read, being a textbook rather than a user-friendly guide. Inevitably, it starts by covering the basis of the science of palaeontology and its application to the interpretation of Earth and life history and environments. And these are interesting and well written (if aimed at a high level of prior understanding) in their own right, with interesting diagrams to work your way through. Only then does it go on to discuss the way the science is used by industry, including the petroleum, mining (minerals and coal), engineering and the environmental aspects of the global economy.
There is no doubt that this book is very academic (but with excellent illustrations) and it pulls no punches as far as the academic language goes. It is clearly not intended for the casual reader, but rather the committed and technically proficient one. On the other hand, I particularly liked the use of specific case studies that intersperse the chapters in text boxes, which should make it more enjoyable and understandable for a greater number of readers.
The author – Robert Wynn Jones – is certainly in a good position to write a book on applied palaeontology. In particular, he has worked as a micropalaeontologist and biostratigrapher in the petroleum industry, and has been a principal consultant biostratigrapher at BG Group since 2009. However, he also has more than 100 scientific publications to his name, including a total of six books.
Therefore, if you can see the end of your university years approaching and want to stay in geology, this book may well be for you and will be a good investment.
Applications of Palaeontology: Techniques and Case Studies by Robert Wynn Jones, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (Second edition, 2011). 406 pp., hardback, ISBN: 978-1-107-00523-5