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Old 01-24-2020, 07:19 PM   #1
Icelander
 
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Default Scientific Specializations for Exploring Unknown Island

Premise

You are an aging Texan billionaire in 1995, cosmopolitan, but based in Texas, with outposts in Louisiana, Florida, France, several Caribbean islands and various African countries.

Your influence is mostly concentrated in Texas, but you've got well-placed contacts in France, Africa and former Indochina. In general, your business involves mining, prospecting, petroleum products, natural gas, minerals, diamonds, cobalt, copper and other natural resources, as well as plenty of unrelated businesses that occured to you as you were exploiting Third World countries for natural resources

You have suspected that for years that conventional science cannot explain all there is in this world and that there are supernatural things unknown to the mainstream establishment.

For the past nine years, you have known for a fact that science is wrong and that the world is more mysterious than anyone lets on in public. For the almost a decade, you've spent many millions of dollars employing scientists, mercenaties, investigators, scholars, theorists and kooks, trying to explain the inexplicable events you were witness to. You've also endowed many universities in your intellectual orbit, focusing on fields of study relevant to the paranornal, magic and the possibility of other worlds.

You think you've finally found something that will prove to governments, universities and think-tanks around the world that science is wearing blinkers. An island in the Caribbean where no island was before. A bona fide extraplanar intrusion or at least a virgin piece of land, never mapped, explored or quantified, something for which conventional science didn't account.

Question


You plan an expedition; drawing on all the connections and goodwill thirty years as a Texan millionaire (later billionaire), oilman, investor, enterpreneur, robber baron and philanthropist can muster.

You want reputable scientists, capable experts, competent specialists and academics familiar with exploration, new discoveries and first contact with what could be a new, extraplanar, paranormal, supernatural biosphere.

What kind of scientists do you recruit, among your widespread contacts?

That is, what kind of degrees do they have, what universities do they come from and what institutions are they connected to?

Latest version of a list for the expedition, expanded to twelve spots. Still a botanist and entomologist without background (inc. which universities they come from) and I'm still looking for the last two scientific specialties.

Hi, everybody! Great to see you again!

I've been away for unpleasant health related reasons, but hope to avoid future episodes of ill health and enjoy many more years with you.
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Old 01-24-2020, 07:33 PM   #2
Anthony
 
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Default Re: Scientific Specializations for Exploring Unknown Island

That depends a bit on what you know about the mysteries, and what actual oddities you run into.

Step one is probably aerial surveying -- ordinary geological surveying for the natural causes of the shapes of the land, and an archeology team for evidence of human (or inhuman) activity. As an oilman, you can probably handle the geological survey with people who already work for you, but you'll probably need to recruit archeologists. This is unlikely to be hard.

Step two depends on what you find, but unless something really stands out, it's probably just repeating the same types of surveys on the ground.

Step three is calling in specialists for the weird stuff you find. What that will be depends on what weird stuff you find.
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Old 01-24-2020, 07:40 PM   #3
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Default Re: Scientific Specializations for Exploring Unknown Island

Let's say that you detected the island from aerial surveillance and that you notice that satellites and other impersonal means of detection seem less reliable at noticing it than observation by humans. It's there... but not there, for any number of remote sensing technology.

You're planning the first expedition, to land on the unexplored island. Let's say you've got around eight spots to fill with scientists and academics, the rest of your expedition is filled with trusted personal friends and security staff.

What scientific disciplines do you want represented?
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Old 01-24-2020, 07:49 PM   #4
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Default Re: Scientific Specializations for Exploring Unknown Island

Quote:
Originally Posted by Icelander View Post
Hi, everybody! Great to see you again!

I've been away for unpleasant health related reasons, but hope to avoid future episodes of ill health and enjoy many more years with you.
Good to have you back!

Almost every kind of scientist can be useful here. One starts with an expert in the geology of the Caribbean, whom you'll probably do best to look for at the Mona, Jamaica campus of the University of the West Indies. Establishing the relationship - or otherwise - of the geology of this island to the surrounding areas will be important. If it's extra-planar, then new kinds of minerals, unusual isotope ratios in common minerals, and other such details may be present, which will be quite convincing.

If this island is of any size, inspecting the photographic archives of the Landsat program will show that it wasn't there in the past, but is now. You might well find that a fisheries expert is the kind of person who would be closely familiar with Landsat imagery and its interpretation.

Once on the island, you'll want botanists, entomologists, ecologists, and so on to classify the species found there and explore their relationships with species in surrounding areas. You'll also want a meteorologist to see if the island seems to have been subject to a different climate to the area where it is now.
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Old 01-24-2020, 08:02 PM   #5
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Default Re: Scientific Specializations for Exploring Unknown Island

Start with satellite imaging and overflights by photoreconnaissance aircraft and get some cartographers to make you maps. Get in touch with Michael Goodchild at UC Santa Barbara and get him to lend you a couple of PhD candidates to set up a geographical information system so that your explorers' findings are properly located and logged.

You are going to want testimony about the geology, botany, and zoology, so you want geologists, botanists, ornithologists, entomologists (well, arthropoidologists), ichthyologists, herpetologists…. You ought to recruit them from a wide range of universities, and get a mixture of about 25–30% people with enough reputation and publication record to be believed and the rest young postdocs and PhD candidates who are looking for something new. It is probably very important that most of them were trained or did their fieldwork in the Caribbean and on its shores so that they will recognise the anomalies and not be susceptible to having their discoveries dismissed as failures to recognise something endemic.

You are going to want to show that this intrusion of another world has another history. For that, you want palaeobotanists, and in particular someone on top of pollen stratigraphy, someone used to doing landscape archaeology informed by soil cores. I don't know whether geologists also have a speciality doing that. If your island has volcanic rock on it, someone credible in the field of palaeogeomagnetism might be handy.

Do not overlook the possibility of finding people or archaeological remains. You ought to pack an anthropologist, a prehistorian, and a field archaeologist who will (a) be able to recognise useful material when they see it, and (b) be able to authoritatively rule in or rule out that the evidence has been left by visitors from the historical shores of the Caribbean and the Gulf. People with specific knowledge of the history, pre-history, and anthropology of the area are a must.

You've got two types of Texan millionaire. The first makes sure that he has people from UT, Texas A&M, and several other institutions (maybe even U Chicago!) so that a healthy rivalry will overcome any tendency to groupthink, and to build a broader base of creditability. The other type makes sure that he gets people from the USA, UK, Netherlands, France, Spain, Mexico, and Venezuela, and from Central American and Caribbean states if possible, so that a healthy rivalry will overcome any tendency to groupthink, to build the broadest possible base of creditability, and so that his team's familiarity with the area is both broad and deep. The latter would love to have some Cuban collaborators, but politics….
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Old 01-24-2020, 08:04 PM   #6
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Default Preliminary List of Eight Scientists and Academics

This list has not been published to players yet, it's just my private notes and guesses. Father Coughlin is more useful than he seems, as he has connections among Vatican people who believe in the paranormal and has studied magical theory for years.

---

Commander Samuel H. Shackleford, PhD (b. June 27, 1938; Corpus Christi, TX); oceanographer from Texas A&M, Galveston; US Navy Reserves, veteran expedition leader.

Reverend Francis Coughlin S.J., PhD (b. September 9, 1939; Dublin, Ireland); theologist and bioethicist from Loyola University.

Dr. Spencer Duvall, PhD (b. October 28; 1943; Houston, TX); MD and forensic anthropologist from UT-Medical Branch and Texas State University; US Army Reserves.

Professor Denzel Rolle (b. August 1, 1948; Nassau, Bahamas); cultural anthropologist from University of Texas - Austin.

Professor Harlan P. Wehmeyer (b. May 14, 1935; Galveston, TX); geologist/mining engineer/geophysicist from Texas A&M.

Hubert Caron, PhD (b. September 23, 1961; Lille, France); biologist (biodiversity, ecology) from Sorbonne Université.

J. Garrett Sullivan, PhD (b. August 15, 1956; Dallas, TX); post-graduate biochemist research assistant from Baylor College of Medicine; former USASF Medical Sergeant.

Martin Luther 'Marty' White, PhD (b. March 19, 1964; San Antonio; TX); linguist from UT-Austin and Université Paris-Sorbonne.
---

Edit: Due to great suggestions in this thread, I've added more scientists, see updated list here.
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Old 01-24-2020, 08:16 PM   #7
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Default Re: Scientific Specializations for Exploring Unknown Island

It looks to me as though your list is light on an ornithologist, an entomologist, a botanist, and perhaps a vertebrate biologist such as a herpetologist. Also, I recommend wider connections with Caribbean institutions and fieldwork and the universities of the former colonial powers of the area.
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Old 01-24-2020, 08:51 PM   #8
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Default Re: Scientific Specializations for Exploring Unknown Island

Quote:
Originally Posted by Agemegos View Post
It looks to me as though your list is light on an ornithologist, an entomologist, a botanist, and perhaps a vertebrate biologist such as a herpetologist.
Yes, you are right in that Hubert Caron is carrying a lot of weight, in that he's expected to be the Subject Matter Expert for anything alive without a language of its own...

But who to drop for him?

Or, alternatively, make more rounded, given that the billionaire in question has had years to develop close relationships with top scientific talent in the region (especially Texas, where he is a huge source of funding for multiple universities) and attract scientists and scholars who might believe in the paranormal and alternative theories.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Agemegos View Post
Also, I recommend wider connections with Caribbean institutions and fieldwork and the universities of the former colonial powers of the area.
Good point.

Denzel Rolle is Afro-Caribbean and educated either in the UK or the Caribbean, before a PhD from UT-Austin.

From my limited research, most post-graduate programs on the islands are considered inferior to the best universities in the US or UK, especially before 1995. This scenario is historical background (the expedition got lost and one PC has just recently returned from 23 years 'Elseahere'), in actual play it is New Year's 2018-2019, and, for example, graduates of the University of West Indies are a lot more significant than they were in the 1990s in the setting backstory.

Still, do you have suggestions for adjustments to better incorporate Caribbean expertise for this 1995 expedition?
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Old 01-24-2020, 09:14 PM   #9
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Default Re: Scientific Specializations for Exploring Unknown Island

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From my limited research, most post-graduate programs on the islands are considered inferior to the best universities in the US or UK, especially before 1995.
Yes, but
  1. The best graduates from Caribbean institutions and even the best undergrads often got scholarships to study and train in the USA (Fulbright Program and so on), UK, France, Netherlands etc.
  2. Scholars and scientists from the USA and other former colonial powers often made use of old collections and traditions relating to, and rich contacts in, former colonial territories to do fieldwork there or otherwise develop specific expertise.
  3. For observational work of a preliminary character, such as this, it is actually more useful to have detailed local knowledge than to have a prodigious intellect and a profound grasp of analytical principles. An amateur butterfly-collector who has seen several thousand Antillean clearwings and can tell at a glance that that is not one might be more useful than the world's leading expert on the evolution of the Lepidoptera. You want someone who knows what bugs and stuff in the Caribbean look like and do in the wild so that he can tell what is worth collecting for the experts.

There is a certain tendency in people of a very dynamic disposition to overlook (c) and to get the "best people" — meaning the most famous and best connected, the ones they know — rather than people with the most specifically relevant specialised knowledge and experience. They tend to rate talent more highly than laboriously-acquired skill.
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Last edited by Agemegos; 01-24-2020 at 09:28 PM.
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Old 01-24-2020, 09:32 PM   #10
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Default Re: Scientific Specializations for Exploring Unknown Island

Quote:
Originally Posted by Icelander View Post
... Let's say you've got around eight spots to fill with scientists and academics,... What scientific disciplines do you want represented?
By GURPS skill:

Geography (Physical)
Naturalist
Botany (geographical specialization)
Zoology (geographical specialization)
Geology
Meteorology
Navigation (Sea)
Cartography

Last edited by Donny Brook; 01-25-2020 at 12:09 AM.
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