My colleague Michael Pittman is a young, ambitious and smart researcher who has done some very nice work on tail stiffness in archosaurs. Now, Michael has a grant going for a project that expands on his previous work, and there are a lot of big names on the grant along with him – and I am on it as well! Not because I am one of the bigshots (most certainly not), nor because I know much about tail stiffness in archosaurs, but because I can build nice research 3D models in a variety of programs, including the necessary 3D digitizing. Previously, I collected data at the AMNH for this project. And in February it took me to China two weeks ago.
Michael and I wanted to check out some fossils in this place: the famous IVPP.
The IVPP is a research institute, and I’ll have some thing to say on that topic later, but it also has a museum part. For reasons that will become apparent in due course my visit to that museum was rather short and somewhat strenuous, and I have little to write and show. Let’s get this over with, and then advance from the holiday part of my trip to the work aspects.
In the center of the main room of the IVPP museum there is a big pit that houses a number of dinosaur mounts. Here’s a hapless Tuojiangosaurus multispinus having a very bad day at the hands… erh, teeth of Monolophosaurs jiangi (thanks, Dave Hone: I forgot to take a pic of the label of the latter dinosaur, but your photo of the two mounts includes it).
Of more interest to me, given my history of involvement with plateosaurid dinosaurs, is this critter below: Lufengosaurus!
OK, looks rather clumsy. The dinosaur below is much nicer:
Sinornithosaurus millenii. Fluffy!🙂 It was really cool to see this really famous specimen.
Now, work. What took me to China this year was Michael’s rather cool project on oviraptor tails. But as I happened to be at the IVPP anyway, and as my esteemed colleague Jingmai O’Connor had suggested that I give a talk on photogrammetry there, and as there actually was a time window that allowed me to give that talk, and as my famous colleague Xu Xing at the IVPP actually managed to arrange things……
… I did give a quick intro to a rapid and cheap 3D-digitizing technique. The announcement, above the one that hung in the elevator, suffered a bit from being copied from what I jotted down for Xu, who apparently had some trouble reading my admittedly horrible handwriting. But the presentation was a success, with the listeners (palaeontologists and archaeologists alike) becoming increasingly interested instead of nodding off to sleep – always a good sign!
Michael and I studied a number of specimens I can’t show you, because they are not on exhibit, but I can show you one that is on exhibit in the National Geological Museum (homepage if you read Chinese) in Beijing. The specimen is labelled Shenzhousaurus orientalis NGMC 97-4-002, and it is shown in a glass-covered steel-cornered box. Very safe, which is good. Although I hate when exhibits are behind glass because it makes seeing and especially photographing them so much harder, it is much better to have them behind glass than damaged or stolen. And too many museums, the NHM London and the MfN included, have had dinosaurs on exhibit pawed and fingered and broken by the unwashed masses. In this case, I would have done things a tiny bit different with regards to the lighting, but then, I always have photography and photogrammetry on my mind, whereas museum exhibit planners have other priorities, mainly the dramatic impact.
Shenzhousaurus orientalis type specimen with calipers for scale. Note the blueish light stemming from a neon tube mounted inside the glass cabinet.
So, I set to photographing this small precious raptor, which was a bit of a bother because of an unfortunate meeting of my left knee with the Beijing sidewalk asphalt the day before (the reason why my IVPP museum visit was not that much fun, and short). Suffice to say that I felt very House-ish limping through Beijing and through the Geological Museum (a place well worth an extensive visit!) on my crutch. I was, however, capable of handling my camera and tripod quite well. Here’s a glimpse at the results of ~5 minutes of photography.
As you cannot see in this screenshot, the model came out quite nicely, although not quite perfect. I blame the dust on the inside of the glass for some imperfections – and I can’t get rid of that horrible colour!