The Cretaceous World

From iDigBio
Jump to: navigation, search

Digitization TCN: The Cretaceous World: Digitizing Fossils to Reconstruct Evolving Ecosystems in the Western Interior Seaway

The Cretaceous World TCN
Quick Links
Project Summary
Current Research
Project Websites
Network Map

Project Summary

Between 65 and 100 million years ago, during the time that dinosaurs walked the earth, a large, tropical seaway covered the central part of what is now North America. This seaway teemed with marine life. Snails and clams lived on the seafloor; ammonites, along with giant mosasaurs, plesiosaurs, sharks, and fish, swam about; at the same time early birds and pterosaurs floated on or flew above the seaway. What remains today is a prolific fossil record that has been collected by paleontologists for over 100 years. Notable fossils from this time period and region are on display at museums around the world. However, the vast bulk of fossils collected from this region are locked away in museum drawers. To provide scientists and the general public access to these fossils and their associated data, this project proposes to digitize invertebrate and vertebrate fossils from this time period and region, making information accessible through searchable electronic databases. Additionally, a variety of online resources illustrating and describing these fossils and mapping their distributions will be developed. A freely accessible online textbook of paleontology will be generated and a website and App will be developed to highlight the appearances, occurrences, and ages of constituent species, to help students and aspiring paleontologists identify and learn about these fossils. The project plans to generate a variety of curricular materials for K-12 education, including 3-D scans of fossils for free download and printed 3-D models for classroom use. Products of this project will also include workshops to engage science teachers and items to augment public programs and exhibits at participating institutions.

This work will greatly increase the scientific value of eight major U.S. museum collections of fossils. The museum collections contain large amounts of data useful for studying what causes marine species to migrate, go extinct, and evolve during a long period of greenhouse climate conditions similar to those our planet may soon experience. These data have relevance for evaluating how global change has and will continue to affect life on earth. An estimated 164,000 specimens collected from thousands of locations, in the region once occupied by the Western Interior Seaway, will be databased and georeferenced. Representatives from each of roughly 1,500 microfossil, invertebrate, and vertebrate species will be imaged. The digitized records will be made available online via individual museum databases, iDigBio, and iDigPaleo. The resultant data will enable scientists to answer questions about how different species interact and ecosystems change in the face of environmental shifts during a key time in the history of life. Moreover, the data will be ideal for use with an assortment of modern quantitative tools -including paleoecological niche modeling (PaleoENM) - and will help improve paleoclimate and paleoceanographic models. Finally, several undergraduate and graduate students will be trained. Results of the project will be published at the following url:

Current Research

Proposed research uses of data generated through The Cretaceous World project include:

  • revealing how ancient marine species and ecosystems responded to the dynamic environment that characterized this greenhouse system,
  • understanding interactions between a diversity of species, their endemicity, ecosystems, and environmental changes,
  • paleoecological niche modeling, and
  • improving paleoclimate and paleoceanographic models.
  • Project Websites & Social Media

    Digital Atlas of Ancient Life

    Citizen Science & Outreach Projects

    Project Leadership

    Project sponsor: University of Kansas (NSF Award 1602067)

    Principal Investigator (PI): Bruce Lieberman
    Co-Principal Investigators: James Beach, K. Christopher Beard, Maribeth Price, Laurie Anderson

    Project Collaborators

    Map of Collaborating Institutions

    American Museum Natural History - Neil Landman, Ruth O'Leary (NSF Award 1601891)
    Fort Hays State University - Laura Wilson (NSF Award 1601944)
    Paleontological Research Institute - Jonathan Hendricks (NSF Award 1645520)
    San Jose State University - Jonathan Hendricks (NSF Award 1601790)
    South Dakota School of Mines & Technology – Laurie Anderson, Maribeth Price
    University of Colorado at Boulder - Talia Karim (NSF Award 1601729)
    University of New Mexico - Corinne Myers (NSF Award 1601878)
    University of Texas at Austin - Ann Molineux, Rowan Martindale, Matthew Brown (NSF Award 1602101)
    Yale University - Susan Butts, Christopher Norris (NSF Award 1601884)

    Protocols & Workflows


    Professional Presentations

    Other project documentation