Tuesday 26 November 2013

3D Fossil finder visits BGS!

A few days ago, the overall winner of our “Hunt the 3D Fossil” Competition visited BGS in Keyworth for a VIP tour. Eleven year old Phoebe found a 3D printed crinoid in amongst the ichthyosaurs at the Yorkshire Museum, where she and her family are regular visitors.

This is the crinoid we 3D printed and which Phoebe spotted in the museum
The first part of the day was a chance to see the workings of the project, and Phoebe helped to make a laser scan of a fossil fish, and took photographs using the tilting stage which we then turned into an anaglyph for her. Before we left for lunch, we started the 3D printer to make a trilobite, one of her favourite kinds of fossil!

After lunch we began a tour of BGS – being a large site, we had a lot to fit into quite a short space of time. Phoebe enjoys collecting “real” fossils as well, so first we stopped off at our records store, where she was able to see the registers which hold all the information on our specimens, and how important it is to keep these kind of records for any size collection.

Examining one of the registers in the records section
 Next we headed to the core store to see some of the 600km of core samples that we store there, and to see how we are able to move racking that weighs nearly 800 tons (about the same as a high-speed passenger train!) with just one press of a button.

Part of one of the three core stores at BGS Keyworth

This left the museum collections to see. With a quarter of a million specimens there wasn't going to be time to see everything, so Louise and Paul (who look after the collections) had selected out some stunning specimens for us to look at. Phoebe liked them all, but we particularly liked looking at:
  • Dinosaur bones - unfortunately we didn't have her favourite Parasaurolophus , as it is a North American genus, but there were bones of Iguanodon and Megalosaurus to be seen
  • Ichthyosaur, plesiosaur and a pterosaur specimen from Lyme Regis, as well as a shark collected by none other than Mary Anning
  • Clypeus ploti, a sea urchin, or if you prefer, a “poundstone” or “Chedworth bun”
  • Calymene blumenbachii, the famous “Dudley locust” trilobite
  • Many, many ammonites, including Psiloceras from the Somerset coast, still with traces of the original shell present.

To finish the day, Bruce Napier took us on a virtual “flight” above (and below) the UK using the 3D visualisation suite. The system is not just limited to this planet either. We also spent an enthralling few minutes exploring the surface of Mars!

There was just time to visit the shop, where Phoebe was able to grow her own fossil collection a little bit more. We are glad that everyone had a fun day, and the family are already planning more visits to fossil localities and museums in the UK!
Simon Harris

3D Fossil Competition – National Winners Draw

On Monday 23rd September, the drawer was held for the two national winners to enjoy a VIP tour round the National Geological Repository at the BGS Headquarters at Keyworth, Nottingham. The two winning tickets were picked at random from the hard hat by Jayne and Jo, two of the original project team.

Jayne and Jo pick the National Competition Winners from the hard hat

The national winners were Phoebe, who won the Yorkshire Museum competition, and Callum, who won the Amgueddfa Cymru National Museum Wales competition. Phoebe also won the iPad mini preloaded with a 3D fossil collection.

Congratulations to you both!

Wednesday 6 November 2013

Accessing historic geological texts through on-line archives

Sometimes when photographing a fossil it helps to learn a little more about the specimen before pressing the shutter. Fortunately at British Geological Survey we are blessed with an excellent library (both traditional and electronic!), but we have found that there are other options if you are not so fortunate:

Google, and other web searches are usually good, but one needs to be careful about the accuracy of the data that comes up. Since we are dealing with type fossils, some of which were first described nearly two hundred years ago, it makes sense to consult the original description. Many of these books and journals have now gone out of copyright or have been intentionally put into the public domain by their rights owners.

So here then, is a list of the best resources we have found so far for our internet researches:

•                      Google books (http://books.google.co.uk/)
•                      The Internet Archive (http://www.archive.org/)
•                      Palaeontology back-issues (http://www.palass.org/modules.php?name=backissues)
•                      Biodiversity Heritage Library (http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/)
•                      Worldcat (http://www.worldcat.org/) – also drives the search engine for the NERC library service (http://nerc.worldcat.org/)
•                      Open Library (http://openlibrary.org/)
•                      Forgotten Books (http://www.forgottenbooks.org/)
•                      Project Gutenberg (http://www.gutenberg.org/)
•                      Many geological societies and other organisations also manage their own digital archives, for example, the Geological Curators Group (http://www.geocurator.org/) makes back issues of it’s journal available on their website
•                      The Geological Society has a Virtual Library section on their website

•                      Amazon.co.uk and Apple iBookstore – less good for freely accessible information, but it is very often possible to buy an e-book version or even a reprint of the text you are after!

Screenshot of a page from “Catalogue of the fossil sponges in the Geological Department of the British Museum” on Biodiversity Heritage Library. Some of the specimens shown on this plate are type specimens and have been photographed as part of the JISC GB/3D Fossils Online Project
With a bit of searching and good luck, perhaps you will be able to find the historic titles you are searching for. The only danger is getting carried away in the many virtual shelves of books! Remember if you are not able to find the text you are after in digital form, you should try your local library who will be able to help you locate the nearest copy to you.

Let us know through the comments if there are any sources you use which you think we have missed.


Simon Harris

3D Fossils at UCL Festival of Geology

Last weekend the 3D Fossils team joined a number of geologists from different institutions around the country to attend the Festival of Geology at the UCL (University College, London). The event takes place each year, giving the public the occasion to discover more about geology and its disciplines, and of course, fossils!!

We were in the children's discovery area, along with the NHM, Bristol University and RockWatch. We were busy showing enthusiastic children (and even more enthusiastic parents) the potential of 3D fossils online.

3D printed fossils captured the attention of both children and adults. Anaglyphs were also popular and children were amused trying to touch the 3D fossils they were seeing with the glasses; whereas the most curious were exploring the 3D fossils from different sides on the iPad screens.

Dr Michela Contessi showing fossil cards and anaglyphs

It was great to see so many people were interested in fossils and geology. Many were pleasantly surprised to learn how much they can now discover about UK  fossils collections online. But remember, also visit  your local museum and compare our 3D models with the real thing!

Monday 4 November 2013

3D Fossils at Science Uncovered at The Natural History Museum

On the last Friday in September, two members of the 3D fossils team boarded a train from Nottingham station to attend the Science Uncovered event as part of European Researchers Night 2013.

We were to be demonstrating in the imaging zone, alongside pieces of exotic equipment such as a table-top electron microscope. After solving a few minor problems during setting up (using the time-honoured method of “gaffer tape and ingenuity”....) we had the 3d printer running and making 3d fossils.

Our first “customers” were adults who had brought  their children to the museum (or was it the children who had brought their parents?!). Many had been fossil hunting and were excited to learn of the existence of our database, where they could download models to compare with their own finds, to help in identifying them.

3D fossils in the spotlight - demonstrating to an onlooker how a print is made up

It was also good to speak to a number of school teachers who had recently bought a 3d printer and were looking for things to fabricate with it. We were able to share our experiences of acquiring models using the laser scanner, or designing them in 3D CAD, and finally using the printer to output that work.

Our anaglyphs and 3d prints proved a big hit with young and old alike, and we distributed plenty of fossil cards and leaflets throughout the evening. One of the trickiest parts of the evening was working in a darkened room, with a black floor, black walls and a black tablecloth – thank goodness that we were printing the models in white plastic!

Viewing anaglyphs on the iPad screen made it easy for everyone to have a go

All in all, it was great to see so many people attending the evening and provided us with a brilliant opportunity to explain our work to people from a very wide range of backgrounds, and how modern technologies are invaluable in helping us achieve this. 

A late Victorian interpretation of "3D Fossils"!
Simon Harris

Conservator/JISC Project Photographer