GSA Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, USA - 2019

Paper No. 25-3
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-5:30 PM


LANIK, Amanda, HULTS, Chad P. and RUGA, Mikaela R., National Park Service, Alaska Regional Office, 240 W. 5th Ave., Anchorage, AK 99501

Alaska’s national parks are composed of millions of acres of public land rich in biological, archaeological, and geological resources. In particular, Alaska National Parks contain paleontological resources, or fossils, that span nearly every time period known to have fossils. Fossils tell the story of how life in Alaska has changed over millions of years, reflecting Alaska’s dynamic and diverse natural history. Despite the important story these natural resources tell, the public has very little opportunity to engage with fossils from Alaska’s national parks. This is because most park fossils either occur in remote areas of the parks or reside in rarely visited curatorial centers. To increase public access, we have begun creating a library of 3D models of fossils using structure from motion (SfM). SfM is a photogrammetric method that uses overlapping photographs of an object to find matching points and build a 3D model.

The resulting 3D models are shared with the public in multiple ways. All of the models are posted on Sketchfab (, a website where the public can view and manipulate the models while learning about where the fossils were found and what kind of organism they belonged to. Sketchfab is also a useful mechanism for National Park Service scientists and interpreters to share 3D models of fossils during in-person outreach efforts. For example, the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve visitor’s center has a large touchscreen TV where visitors can interact with models of fossils from the preserve. A virtual reality headset can also be used to view the fossil models, creating an even more immersive experience. The 3D models can even be printed and used at outreach events. The printed models are less likely to be damaged and more easily transported than real fossils. All of these strategies increase the public’s access to fossils from Alaska’s national parks, allowing more people to understand the significance of these resources and the importance of protecting them. We will be displaying the printed models at the poster session and also have virtual reality headsets.