EGU General Assembly 2022
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Bias in the Fossil Record: An arts-based approach to decolonising palaeontology

Fiona Gill1, Emily Rees Koerner2, and Sonja Andrew3
Fiona Gill et al.
  • 1School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK
  • 2School of Philosophy, Religion and History of Science, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK
  • 3School of Design, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK

Just as there is a bias in the fossil record as to which organisms are preserved, there is a bias in who is represented in palaeontology’s history and whose perspective on the cultural significance of fossils is valued. This bias is echoed in the lack of diversity in the palaeontological community today, particularly in terms of racial or ethnic diversity.

A major contributory factor is that palaeontology’s history is entwined with and directly influenced by colonial histories, which have omitted the multifaceted ways in which a range of people and lands have contributed. This bias in the historical development of palaeontology, in particular its alignment to white, western, male privilege, has excluded and marginalised those outside this group in the historical record and today, and continues to impact the perception of fossils, palaeontology and palaeontologists by students, teachers and scientific and non-scientific publics.

We will present interdisciplinary work in progress on an arts-based approach to decolonising palaeontology. We are trialling a variety of practical, creative engagement activities via workshops that bridge art and science, in order to explore and integrate the scientific, cultural and historical significance of fossils.  

We are working with a range of audiences, with a particular focus on those currently under-represented in palaeontology. In doing so, we aim to shift perceptions of fossils and palaeontology and expand the accepted framework of cultural significance that fossils and palaeontology hold, thus contributing to a more inclusive and diverse palaeontological community in the future.

How to cite: Gill, F., Rees Koerner, E., and Andrew, S.: Bias in the Fossil Record: An arts-based approach to decolonising palaeontology, EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-2923,, 2022.


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