GSA Connects 2021 in Portland, Oregon

Paper No. 191-9
Presentation Time: 2:30 PM-6:30 PM


HAMBLETON, Jenny, Department of Geology and Geophysics, University of Utah, 115 S 1460 E, Room 383, Salt Lake City, UT 84112-0102 and RITTERBUSH, Kathleen, Department of Geology and Geophysics, University of Utah, 115 S 1460 E, Salt Lake City, UT 84112

We present open-source software to organize and integrate paleontological knowledge from photomicrograph metadata. This toolkit, an R package, emphasizes accessibility for data-science novices and continuity for lab team workflows. Advances in microscopy and computed imaging have exacerbated long-recognized challenges in data accessibility. Observations from the rock record are too often orphaned: samples in drawers; slides in boxes; images on hard drives, tallies in spreadsheets. Synthesis of knowledge is lost when people transition between labs, academic positions, or disciplines. We meet this challenge by crafting a flexible metadata framework and providing simple tools to find patterns within the morass of dark data. Our data considerations include; provenance, geological context, and collection attributes, using benchmarked best practices. We seed our project with data from ongoing research in paleontology: vertebrate histology; invertebrate bio-sedimentation; and geology: igneous; diagenesis. We propose an open-source package using the language R to create entry-level tools for researchers to compare photomicrograph observations, map samples based on fossil content, and draft stratigraphic profiles of samples. We showcase how these tools help to synthesize first-order trends in paleontological data:

  1. We demonstrate within-sample feature tracking with images from vertebrate bone histology slides. The case demonstrates clear intersections with specimen-based research and collections management.
  2. We map observations of fossilized sea sponges through time and space. Our functions also export data tailored to GIS, google earth, and Macrostrat.
  3. This project demonstrates the importance of inquiry-focused data tools for research continuity; and value-added from life-experience diversity in collaborative research.