2015 GSA Annual Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, USA (1-4 November 2015)

Paper No. 327-13
Presentation Time: 4:30 PM


KELLEY, Neil P.1, DEPOLO, Paige2, NOBLE, Paula J.2, PYENSON, Nicholas1, ANGSTER, Stephen3, LITTLE, Holly4 and BLUNDELL, Jon5, (1)Department of Paleobiology, Smithsonian Institution - National Museum of Natural History, 10th & Constitution Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20013, (2)Department of Geological Sciences & Engineering, University of Nevada, MS 172, Reno, NV 89557, (3)Center for Neotectonic Studies and Seismological Laboratory, University of Nevada, 1664 North Virginia St., Reno, NV, (4)Department of Paleobiology, Smithsonian Institution - National Museum of Natural History, 10th & Constitution Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20560, (5)Digitization Program Office, Smithsonian Institution, Landover, MD 20785, kelleynp@si.edu

The “Fossil House” quarry at Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park in central Nevada preserves at least nine skeletons of the giant Triassic ichthyosaur Shonisaurus popularis, among the largest Mesozoic marine reptiles. Despite a long history of scientific investigation at the site beginning in the 1950s major questions remain concerning the factors that concentrated so many large vertebrate skeletons in a relatively small area, as well as the broader paleoenvironmental and depositional context and the paleoecology of Shonisaurus. In order to generate a rigorous framework to tackle these questions with testable hypotheses we present preliminary results from a two-year investigation of the site integrating multiple digitization approaches (LiDAR, photogrammetry, structured light, laser scanning) cross-referenced with conventional field techniques (e.g., in situ measurement, field mapping) and archival investigation. Work at the site is challenging because the quarry is preserved as a sheltered permanent public display in a remote location. Three-dimensional (3D) digitization provides a means to create digital models that can be studied, shared or even printed offsite. Initial photogrammetry incorporating approximately 1500 images produced a useful overview model for preliminary taphonomic assessment. However, processing revealed artifacts, soft spots and holes owing to site-specific conditions (e.g., faulting, limited contrast between matrix and fossils, uneven shadows and lighting) and the general challenges presented by digitizing a large uneven surface. High resolution (cm-scale) terrestrial-based LiDAR permits georeferencing and larger scale site context including imagery of the shelter and surrounding hillside. Structured light (Artec Eva and Spider) scanners provide enhanced detail for smaller features of interest. Follow-up work, including additional photogrammetry and laser (Surphaser) scanners, will systematically target weaknesses and improve the model. Finally, archival investigation of field notes, maps and photographs from past excavations, along with biostratigraphic and geochemical data provide additional avenues to illuminate the geology and paleobiology of this iconic vertebrate fossil locality.