2011, Lyme Regis:



Bringing sea dragons back to life: 200 years on from Anning, Conybeare and De la Beche.

Mark Evans

New Walk Museum and Art Gallery, 53 New Walk, Leicester, UK, LEI TEA

The Geological Galleries at New Walk Museum, Leicester, are being redisplayed. The main objective of the new gallery is to present examples of the evidence and methodology underlying the reconstruction of extinct organisms, focussing on charismatic dinosaurs and marine reptiles. Harking back to Henry Thomas De la Beche's Duria Antiguior, reconstructions of the living organisms and their environments were to be a vital part of the gallery's interpretation. We commissioned palaeoartist Robert Nicholls to produce paintings and reconstruction drawings which produced a valuable collaboration between artist and curator.

However, the expectations of the modern museum visitor have been raised. We therefore decided to produce a computer-generated animation of the Oxford Clay. Robert Nicholls sculpted maguettes of 7 animals from the Oxford Clay and these were subseguently laser scanned. Our initial idea was to commission an animated video which would be played on a loop and projected onto an overhead screen, so that the visitor becomes immersed in the environment. However, Leicester-based virtual reality specialists Maelstrom suggested an alternative where the scene is rendered in realtime so that the visitor never sees the same seguence of events. The system also allows for extra interpretation on the animal in focus to be displayed on a separate monitor, and for multiple views of the scene to be rendered. The visitor can control an interactive display and zoom in and out. Sample footage will be presented.


Accessing Palaeontology in a Local Museum

Philip Hadland

Canterbury City Council Museums Service

Kent is a region of surprising geological heritage and a diverse range of fossil deposits can be found within the county. Canterbury's Museums feature fossil collections, dating back to the early days of palaeontology reflecting the spectacular variety of collecting opportunities available. For several years Canterbury's Museum service has exploited a variety of ways to engage the public with their local geology and the science of palaeontology. More recently, work has been undertaken to enhance the accessibility of palaeontological collections held by Canterbury's Museum Service.


The UK Continental Shelf on the move: transferring two major core and sample collections.

Mike P. A. Howe

British Geological Survey

The British Geological Survey (BGS) manages the national borehole archive, with corestores at Keyworth, Nottingham, holding samples and cuttings from over 15,000 onshore boreholes, including 250 km of core. The marine corestore at Loanhead, Edinburgh, held 12,000 metres of core and 15,000 seabed samples, and the UK Continental Shelf corestore at Gilmerton, Edinburgh, contained DECC's UK seaward hydrocarbon well cores and samples from over 8,000 wells, with 300 km of core and 4.5 million samples of cuttings.

In 2009, the decision was taken to consolidate the core holdings into a single "state of the art" facility at Keyworth. Because of the importance of the Gilmerton material to Britain's energy security, the BGS worked closely with a group of advisors to develop and monitor a safe transfer methodology. The move required 125,000 boxes of core and 47,000 boxes of cuttings to be packed into caged pallets and transferred to Keyworth within 18 months. Every box of core (often containing three internal boxes) was opened, the contents photographed (7216x5412 pixels) and additional conservation grade packaging added to protect the material during transit. Adoption of a production line technique, coupled with the extensive use of barcodes and database systems, is enabling the transfer to proceed on target. It has also provided a unique opportunity to audit 100% of the core, adding metadata or conservation issues to the database. QC inspection of the core on arrival at Keyworth has failed to detect any transfer damage.


Resourcing Palaeontological Collection Care in a Time of Crisis: The Legacy of the Earth Science Review, Twenty Years On

Jeff Liston

Division of Environmental & Evolutionary Biology, University of Glasgow

The current round of cuts resulting from the global financial crisis once again places museum collections in a vulnerable position in terms of resource allocations from funders national, regional and private. Often, cuts in institutional funding are proposed in the context of being intended to reshape an organisation for a more streamlined role, better designed to meet the challenges of the future. But however well museums are redesigned, they rarely escape being viewed as legitimate targets for funding cuts whenever a new round of belt-tightening comes up. The inherent implication of the language of institutional reshaping is that a certain amount of protection, if not immunity, will be conferred on the museum come the next round - but that rarely happens. This is true from all ranges of funders: it is simply hard in political terms for funders to justify resources going to cultural preservation instead of hospitals or nursery education.

Within museums, geological collections traditionally have a particularly hard time in terms of funding and justifying their existence. Whereas artworks, archaeological, historical or ethnographic objects appear to have an intuitively obvious value to external assessors, arguing the case for natural science in general, and geology in particular, has always been an uphill struggle.

This presentation will review how an unusual manifestation of this phenomenon in the late 1980s - the Earth Science Review, when cuts in funding actually led to an increase in long-term funding for some geological museum collections - has survived to the present day.


How Long? Preparation of the Weymouth Bay Pliosaur

Scott Moore-Fay

Wavecut Platform Ltd

Between 2002 and 2006 a large quantity of bones and bone bearing concretions (more than 32) were found washing out of a landslip in Weymouth Bay and collected, mainly by a single collector, Kevan Sheehan. These pieces, some weighing as much as 80kg, were subsequently identified by Richard Edmonds as the skull of a huge pliosaur and were purchased by Dorset County Council using funds provided by the Eleritage Lottery Fund.

Scott Moore-Fay (freelance preparator) successfully bid for the contract to prepare and mount the skull and lower jaws. Find out how long it takes to prepare a 2m pliosaur skull? Where do you start? What tools do you use? Were there any problems? What information has the preparation helped reveal?

The finished skull is now on display in the Geology Gallery at Dorchester County Museum.


Acid Preparation of a pond turtle from the Eocene Mo clay formation of northern Denmark

Frank Osbæck

Museernes Bevaringscenter i Skive

In 2010 an extremely well preserved Pond turtle (Owenemys sp.) was prepared at the preparation laboratory of Museernes Bevaringscenter i Skive. In 2011 it was returned with the request to prepare the specimens ventral side, exposing the plastron, a crucial diagnostic element.

The preparation produced a 3 dimensional prepared specimen, with a perfectly preserved plastron and more than 27 new bones including a femur, fibia, several bones from the foot and 6 tail vertebra. Together with the previously prepared dorsal side with the skull, large parts of the extremities, neck and tail vertebrae (57 in all), the specimen represents one of the best preserved Eocene turtles from the London Clay period.

The preparation of the ventral side was documented with stop motion technique showing the matrix, consisting partly of calcareous concretion known as cement stone, partly of calcium bound volcanic ash, slowly "disappearing" during preparation.

The specimen has not yet been described, but will undoubtedly give a unique new insight into Eocene Pond turtles.


Simplifying extraction and cross sectioning of microfossils in unlithified sediment

Trine Sorensen1 and Martin Abrahamsson2

1 Department of Conservation, Museum of Southern Jutland, Fabriksvej 17-21, DK-6510 Gram, Denmark; 2 Department of Natural History and Palaeontology, Museum of Southern Jutland, Lergravsvej 2, DK-6510 Gram, Denmark

Preparing micro-fossils can be a slow and costly affair because of difficulties in preparation and/or the need of expensive laboratory equipment. Flere we present a low-tech solution to extract microfossils from unlithified sediment and preparation of cross sections.

The Late Miocene (late Serravallien and Tortonien) Gram Formation in Southern Denmark is well known for its many whale fossils. Flowever, many other vertebrates and invertebrates are found in the Gram Clay leaving e.g. coprolites, tests, denticles, shells, bone- and teeth- fragments of micro-scale behind as fossils. The sticky, grey-brownish clay makes it difficult to spot fossils of sizes less than a few millimetres and wet sieving of the sediment is necessary for extraction. A nest of sieves with mesh sizes 1-0.063 mm and a mechanical shaker is traditionally used. Extracting the microfossils and fragments from the clay sediment using an old washing machine and a pair of nylon stockings have also proven to be an effective method and is a cheap and easy supplement to wet sieving.

A method for producing cross sections of crystals has been adapted to simplify the preparation process when making cross sections of microfossils and small fragments. Specimens are mounted on a compact disc using special double-sided adhesive film. A completely plane surface is thereby obtained minimizing the grinding afterwards. The flexible CD is easily removed after hardening of the epoxy. A CD can also be used as base when producing moulds of small fossils.


Building Conservation Grade Support Systems for the Long-Term Storage of Fossil Vertebrates

E Verveniotou, A Bernucci, and L Allington-Jones

The Natural History Museum (London, UK)

This poster presents the fabrication of support systems for long-term storage of vertebrate palaeontological specimens. The conservation unit in the Palaeontology department at the Natural History Museum, London UK, is regularly presented with opportunities to develop mounts for heavy, complex-shaped and often fragile specimens. The mounts have to be both strong and light-weight. They must fully support the specimen without applying pressure to weak points and allow maximum access with minimal handling. Using the laminating epoxy paste Epopast 400 as a primary material, the poster presents various support solutions that meet the above criteria and combines user-friendly, space-efficient and functional design features. The use of Hexlite (aluminium honeycomb board) and Plastazote (polyethylene foam) in combination with the use of Epopast 400 is discussed and practical information for the construction of the mounts is given. The long-term stability of the materials presented in this poster is established through the application of modified Oddy testing carried out by the conservation unit of the Palaeontology department. The project concludes that these materials are suitable for long-term storage solutions and Epopast 400 is a versatile support medium, especially suited to fossil vertebrates. Link to Poster


The Bristol Dinosaur Project - Preparation Methods

Pedro A. Viegas, Remmert Schouten, Ed Drewitt and Michael J. Benton

School of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol, BS8 1RJ, Bristol, UK

The Bristol Dinosaur, Thecodontosaurus antiquus, lived on small islands in a Rhaetic transgression environment about 200 million years ago amongst other animals. Much of the associated fauna remains are often very small (< 1mm) and have been found in karstic fissure fills alongside Thecodontosaurus.

These micro fossils are sometimes overlooked; this is for many reasons, i.e. low budgets, the need for fast results for publication, among others. Although much of the microfauna from this fissure has been described in earlier publications by David Whiteside, much more remains to be prepared, sorted and studied. The Bristol Dinosaur Project (BDP), now funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, aims to retrieve more of the minute fossil remains from all those reptiles and fishes that co-habited the islands with Thecodontosaurus. This is no small task and a preparator is hired to achieve these results, recruit and supervise volunteers to work through much of the remaining estimated 4 tonnes of fossiliferous rock.

Due to their nature, microfossils are very fragile elements and cannot be removed from the rock with the "traditional'' methods of preparation, such as hammers and chisels or even air scribes. Instead the rocks are acid prepared, using acetic acid. In this paper we describe in detail the whole process of acid digestion at the BDP, the retrieval of all the microelements from the rocks and how they are treated subseguently until they are made available for handling for research. The process of preparation is actively contributing to the research value of the material.