95 million years old and still kicking. Cotton bandage splint fixed with paraloid B67 to the barren underside of a fossil-baring rock. B67 acts as a kind of glue, seeping into the pore space between grains in the rock and binding them more tightly together.
Painting Paraloid B67 onto the barren underside of a fossiliferous piece of rock, which was determined to break into three pieces. This hand sample was first glued with Araldite, before being further treated with paraloid.
Making custom fit ‘straight jackets’ out of expanding polyurethane foam. These foam jackets hug the slabs of rock tightly, helping to control the fracture of the fossil-baring rocks as we split them apart. This way, we have some say in which layers of rock we explore, and can expose their hidden fossils in the controlled environment of a laboratory instead of the often harsh weather conditions (hot/cold and wet/dry) experienced in the field.
A selection from the day’s conservation rounds. Labelling and cataloguing new specimens, supplemented by hours at the microscope; hunting for unique descriptive features on the fossil leaves and cones, or microscopic remains of insects that lived in the 95 million year old polar forest in which these rocks formed.
Extra-happy happy snaps of the fossil conservation process.
Each photograph is captioned with a brief description of the technique featured, but for a romanticised description and more detail of the ‘how’s’ and ‘why’s’ see the rockdoc article Patients.
Pre-public robot fun enabled by public outreach and science engagement with VSSEC, late March this year. Our team of VSSEC educators made the most of our quiet morning time; before the onset of waves of school kids flushing through the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix’s Innovation Precinct.
And later in the day, when the flood gates opened and the kids found their way to fun…
Grain size refers to the diameter of individual grains of sediment in ‘clastic’ or sedimentary rocks.
As a rule of thumb, grain size reflects the energy of the environment a rock forms in. Because of this wonderful fact of physics, the proportion of different grain sizes in a fossil-baring rock can help palaeontologists piece together a picture of the environment their fossils formed in. Was it a quiet burial by a lakeside, or a tumultuous end in the pits of a mountainous river channel?
Generally speaking, higher energy water or wind currents are required to move larger grain sizes.
The degree of size-sorting a.k.a. how uniform the size of the grains is, can also indicate the energy of the depositional environment; well-sorted sediments tend to indicate higher energy depositional settings.
Picture the kinds of environments you might see grains of these sizes laying around, and you’ll be on your way to thinking like a sedimentary geologist:
The Mars Generation, released on Netflix this month, is a documentary produced by the not-for-profit organisation of the same name (see here), whose goal is to educate and energise young people about the importance of deep space exploration to humankind. I mean… how cool can you get?
100% worth your time, the nerdy, engaged kids featured in The Mars Generation documentary prove that hands-on STEM education is the way to go.
This documentary features an emotive mash-up of space exploration history, and interviews with expert space nerds–including the likes of Neil deGrasse Tyson and Michio Kaku–alongside their self-declared teenage counterparts participating in Space Camp.
Space Camp, based at the One Tranquility Base in Hunstville, Alabama, offers kids aged 9 to 18 and beyond (big kids a.k.a. adults) fully immersive ‘space training’, including access to robotics and engineering courses, as well as astronaut ‘career’ training that culminates in an extended-duration simulated mission to Mars.
Unknowingly, we are surrounded by these unlikely natural trademarks, stamped into the concrete facies of our urban streets. Stoically set in stone, they record the fleeting life… of a leaf. At best flimsy in vivo, their traces are afforded a chance to persist through the ages, thanks to none other than us; the human race.
Move over pseudo-fossils, herein are your true modern counterparts.