Fossil Hunter Lottie has made it as far as Bristol! As well as having fantastic fun with our own Tori Herridge at the annual Natural Sciences Collections Association (aka NatSCA) annual conference down by the docks, Fossil Hunter Lottie also made it up the steep hill to the University of Bristol to spend a day with Professor Emily Rayfield.

Talk about #trowelblazing on an epic scale: Fossil Hunter Lottie got to cover everything from dinosaurs to fish, and some kind of robotic teeth death machine (we exaggerate…) to 3D printing!

Over to Emily…

~

I am a Professor of Palaeobiology at the University of Bristol. I’m interested in the function and evolution of animal skeletons. I run a lab with a team of PhD and MSc students, postdocs and undergraduate project students who study the evolution of the skull and feeding behaviour in living and extinct animals such as dinosaurs, birds, crocodiles, early tetrapods and mammals. We use a variety of different methods and tools to investigate how living and extinct animal skeletons function and why skeletons are shaped in a particular way. We use computed tomography (CT) scanning that employs X-rays to image the internal structure of a fossil, then create 3D digital models of anatomy for computational functional analysis. This may involve biomechanical analysis or borrowing techniques from engineering analysis to test the structural performance of the fossil. We test the accuracy of our computational analysis by studying living animal function using some neat testing rigs that our wonderful workshop construct for us. We also use methods to quantify variation in size, shape and function in groups of fossils through time and explore how the changing climate, interaction with other groups and global mass extinction events influence the diversity of animal form and function through time.

Lottie arrives in the post for her visit to Bristol

Lottie arrives in the post for her visit to Bristol

 

I work alongside the other palaeobiologists in the new Life Sciences Building at the University of Bristol

I work alongside the other palaeobiologists in the new Life Sciences Building at the University of Bristol

After taking in the enormity of the Life Sciences central atrium, Lottie relaxes in my office

After taking in the enormity of the Life Sciences central atrium, Lottie relaxes in my office

Button

My day to day work involves research, teaching and administration. An important part of my job is supervising and training palaeobiology research students. Here Lottie is adding a few useful comments to PhD student David Button’s thesis chapter on sauropod cranial biomechanics.

Lottie checks out some CT data and a finite element model of the jaw of Baryonyx, a theropod dinosaur from the south coast of the UK, Spain and northern Africa. The CT dataset reveals the inner structure of the snout, particularly its extremely long tooth roots. The brightly coloured finite element model shows where the snout is deformed during simulated feeding behaviour.  We commonly use these techniques to understand extinct animal function

Lottie checks out some CT data and a finite element model of the jaw of Baryonyx, a theropod dinosaur from the south coast of the UK, Spain and northern Africa. The CT dataset reveals the inner structure of the snout, particularly its extremely long tooth roots. The brightly coloured finite element model shows where the snout is deformed during simulated feeding behaviour. We commonly use these techniques to understand extinct animal function

Lottie gets a close up of a mackerel jaw embedded in resin, part of MSc student Robert Brocklehurst’s research project. The jaw will have sensors attached to it that record how much the bones stretch when a load is applied. We will then try to recreate the same loads and bone stretching in our computer models in order to test how accurate our models are

Lottie gets a close up of a mackerel jaw embedded in resin, part of MSc student Robert Brocklehurst’s research project. The jaw will have sensors attached to it that record how much the bones stretch when a load is applied. We will then try to recreate the same loads and bone stretching in our computer models in order to test how accurate our models are

Danger of crushing or cutting! Lottie admires the ‘double guillotine’, designed by former lab member Phil Anderson to test how efficient different tooth shaped blades are at cutting through foods with different toughness or consistency. The motorised arm moves the blades together and a sensor records the load as the blades cut through salmon, asparagus or squash disks of gelatine

Danger of crushing or cutting! Lottie admires the ‘double guillotine’, designed by former lab member Phil Anderson to test how efficient different tooth shaped blades are at cutting through foods with different toughness or consistency. The motorised arm moves the blades together and a sensor records the load as the blades cut through salmon, asparagus or squash disks of gelatine

3D printer. Lottie has a look at the 3D printer, with PhD student JJ Hill

3D printer. Lottie has a look at the 3D printer, with PhD student JJ Hill

Next, Fossil Hunter Lottie travels to Wales on the sixth and final stop on her #realfossilhuntertour!

Written by Emily Rayfield (@jemilyr). All photos (c) Emily Rayfield.

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