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Using Micro-CT to Investigate Fossils of Giant Triassic Marine Reptile

Student: Matt Machado
Faculty: Neil Kelley
Course: EES 3842: Directed Study



Using images from micro-CT technology, a non-destructive method of investigating fossils, I reconstructed a digital 3D jaw model of an embryo specimen of the giant ichthyosaur, Shonisaurus popularis, from the Triassic period (~220 million years ago). This model serves as a visual scientific tool to study specific features like tooth shape and tooth replacement patterns which provide insights into the evolution and ecology of this extinct marine predator.

What knowledge or skills did you learn?

Through this project, I gained direct technical experience with the CT scanning process and 3D visualization software. I also gained invaluable field work experience through a trip to Lake Shasta. More broadly, I learned about how paleontologists try to answer questions and fill in the knowledge gaps in an effort to build a clearer, more precise story of the history of life.

What made this project interesting for you?

This project allowed me to work visually and creatively in a geoscience context. I was able to apply my experience from both the Earth & Environmental Science and Studio Art departments. Moving forward with this project, I’ll have the freedom to further explore different visual mediums and tools to effectively communicate paleontological information.