Location, location, location – the three important factors of real estate …. are just as important in paleontology. A fossil is nothing, when out of context. A fossil has scientific and historical value only when the details of its original location are well documented.
the location and orientation of each bone is carefully documented when dinosaur bones are discovered during an excavation. Features of the sediment, like grain size or ripple marks, are important for interpreting fossil specimens. The sedimentary features provide a record of the ancient environment that preserved the fossils. Even the orientation of bones can provide evidence of the direction and strength of flowing water that moved the ancient skeleton.
Fossils are often deformed due to compression or tectonic movements, and this is especially true of the dinosaurs found in the Minas Basin. Accurately documenting the orientation of fossils is necessary for interpreting the causes of fossil deformation.
Field mapping techniques are used to record the location of dinosaur bones and sediment features.
- Traditional methods of field mapping with paper/pen field notes and hand drawn field maps remain important. The information is recorded in grid quadrants, corresponding to grids installed at the excavation site.
- Professional surveying equipment can also been used to establish highly accurate locations for significant specimens or to establish location of specific grid locations.
New digital field mapping methods are also being developed.
High-resolution (24Mp) digital photographs and sophisticated photogrammetry software are used to create accurate 3D photographic models (Bennum et al. 2008). The highly accurate 3D meshes record the surfaces of bone and sediments as preserved in the cliff. These new techniques compliment traditional methods, especially in areas like the Fundy shore that have extremely complex geometries.
You can explore one of the first 3D models of the dinosaur cliff, created in 2011.
Stay tuned for more updates on the new digital field mapping techniques being developed while studying the Jurassic dinosaurs from the Bay of Fundy.