GSA Annual Meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA - 2018

Paper No. 228-11
Presentation Time: 10:45 AM


HENDRICKS, Jonathan R.1, HERMSEN, Elizabeth J.1 and HAUF, Emily2, (1)Paleontological Research Institution, 1259 Trumansburg Road, Ithaca, NY 14850, (2)Geological Sciences, SUNY-Geneseo, Geneseo, NY 14454; Paleontological Research Institution, 1259 Trumansburg Road, Ithaca, NY 14850

Open-access online textbooks represent a growing segment of the college textbook market as instructors and institutions become increasingly sensitive to the burdens to students caused by the cumulative cost of course materials. In order to fill the paleontology niche, we have commenced work on a new Digital Encyclopedia of Ancient Life (DEAL) textbook ( as part of the broader National Science Foundation-supported Digital Atlas of Ancient Life project. While college-level students are the expected audience for the DEAL, the content is also intended to be accessible to advanced high school students and avocational paleontologists. The finished DEAL textbook will have coverage of major principles of paleontology, geology, and evolutionary biology, as well as taxonomically-focused chapters on all paleontologically significant groups of protists, invertebrates, vertebrates, and plants. Four chapters are now available online: 1) Nature of the Fossil Record; 2) Geological Time; 3) Systematics; and 4) Gastropoda.

Fossil specimens illustrated in the DEAL largely come from the museum collections of the Paleontological Research Institution (PRI). Recently, we have also begun to use photogrammetry to create interactive, digital 3D models of PRI fossils for the DEAL and to create associated Virtual Teaching Collections (VTC's). The VTC's will be akin to drawers of teaching specimens that are traditionally used in lab courses. While not superior to actual specimens in hand, VTC's will allow students to interact with fossils outside of the classroom and will also allow virtual labs to be added to courses at institutions that lack major fossil collections. To date, over 170 such models have been produced, including representatives of nearly every major group of macroinvertebrates.

The written content of each DEAL chapter has Creative Commons licensing; the same licensing is also applied to 3D models and most DEAL images (almost all of which are newly generated for this project). Creative Commons licensing provides flexibility for instructors to incorporate DEAL content (e.g., text, illustrations, or models) into their own course materials without significant restrictions.