During the 1960s and 1970s, the Amoco Petroleum Company had an active paleontology and biostratigraphy group based in Tulsa, Oklahoma. This group made extensive fossil collections throughout North America and also received samples from petroleum exploration teams operating in other parts of the world. Several members of this group, including Allen Ormiston and R.W. Scott, published widely in the paleontological literature. In the 1980s, the rise of seismic stratigraphy provided new tools for petroleum exploration, and the paleontology-biostratigraphy group became reduced greatly in size as many of its scientists were reassigned to other duties. In 1999, when Amoco became a subsidiary of British Petroleum Ltd, BP-Amoco recognized the great scientific value of their collections and sought alternative repositories in American universities. The Sam Noble Museum was offered Amoco’s collection of approximately 200,000 macroinvertebrate specimens.
The BP-Amoco Collection has major strengths in the Paleozoic of the south-central region, the traditional focus of the Sam Noble Museum. There are also significant, largely undescribed samples from remote areas of Alaska that are of major scientific importance and cannot be recollected easily. Because Amoco’s field sampling program was directed towards biostratigraphy, each collection is accurately located both geographically and stratigraphically, and this enhances the scientific value. BP-Amoco included all collection records in their donation.
Composition of the BP-AMOCO Collections
The BP-Amoco Collection represents the results of decades of research and petroleum exploration by company personnel. Three aspects of the BP-Amoco collections, geographic scope, the quantity of undescribed material, and the quality of the supporting documentation, are of particular significance.
- About half of the sample localities are from “frontier” regions in Alaska and Northern Canada. Many of the localities cannot be revisited easily, the BP-Amoco Collection represent a unique resource.
- There are about 80 publications dealing with macroinvertebrates from the BP-Amoco Collection. Primary types have been reposited at other institutions, but the balance of the material remains part of the BP-Amoco Collection and includes numerous topotypes. Many of the samples in the collections have not been described formally, and these represent a treasure-trove of material for a variety of studies.
- Because the samples were used primarily in biostratigraphic analysis, detailed records were made of sample localities, and these were included by BP-Amoco in the donation. Individual specimen therefore can be located accurately, both geographically and stratigraphically. Alan Shaw, head of the paleontological section at BP-Amoco during its most active period, was a vocal advocate of high quality collection data, and the records reflect his philosophy. Geographic information is expressed by latitude and longitude, usually with a written description of the sample site and an accompanying topographic map. Stratigraphic position is indicated as feet above the base of the rock formation from which the sample was collected. Detailed stratigraphic logs are available for most of the sample sites. Thus, the collection records meet the highest standards for paleontological research. The collection has extensive samples of undescribed materials from remote regions and, given the quality of the supporting documentation, it offers unique research opportunities to paleontologists both within and outside the University of Oklahoma. Based information in the locality files, the age distibution, locality distribution within the USA and outside of the USA area (Click on thumbnail image for detail, a new window will open):