Conservation paleobiology aims to apply data from geohistorical records, such as fossils and their associated sediments, to the conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem services. Integrating geohistorical data into conservation/restoration practice, however, has proved difficult. To better understand how geohistorical data can be more effectively integrated into the conservation/restoration of an ecologically, economically, and culturally important group—oysters—a web-based survey was conducted to assess the awareness and understanding of geohistorical data and perspectives on their use in restoration among oyster researchers and restoration practitioners in the United States. The 97 survey responses not only demonstrate overall willingness to use geohistorical data in oyster restoration but also highlight knowledge gaps. For instance, although many respondents understood some uses for geohistorical data, e.g., providing baseline information, few respondents mentioned others, such as reconstructing historical ranges of variation of ecosystem attributes. Respondents were also generally not aware of the full range of restoration metrics that can be measured from geohistorical records. The responses further suggested how geohistorical information might both reinforce and expand the information currently available to oyster restoration professionals. For instance, only half of respondents indicated that their baseline information predates the 20th century, but geohistorical records of oysters can provide data on timescales ranging from decades to millennia. Finally, it is argued that to raise awareness of this underutilized information and address respondents' doubts about the completeness, precision/accuracy, and relevance of geohistorical data in a rapidly changing, human-dominated world, increased collaboration between conservation paleobiologists and conservation/restoration scientists is needed.
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Vol. 34 • No. 2