Thesis Ideation: Past Work with Dreadnoughtus

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"Dreadnoughtus" by Jennifer Hall

“Dreadnoughtus” by Jennifer Hall

When I was little, I wanted to be a paleontologist more than anything in the world. The idea of discovering the fossilized remains of ancient creatures who ruled the earth millions of years before the evolution of modern mammals was just SO COOL that ten-year-old Valentina couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

Although  I ended up going into Digital Media (a field of study which I am absolutely in love with), I still made a point to keep in touch with my childhood interests. I’ve been volunteering at the Drexel Paleontology lab since the Summer after my freshman year, 3D laser scanning the fossils of Dreadnoughtus schrani, a 70-million year old sauropod dinosaur. Dreadnoughtus takes the prize for having the highest calculable mass of any land animal ever discovered, and was recently featured in just about every major news outlet ever.  It’s a pretty big (hah! Pun!) deal.

In addition to 3D scanning, I also created an articulated tail composite graphic that got me an acknowledgement in the official Dreadnoughtus research paper. I’ve worked with Dr. Lacovara and the grad students in the paleo lab for a long time, and they came to know and trust my work as a 3D artist.

I recently approached Dr. Lacovara about the possibility of working on Dreadnoughtus for my thesis. It would be the perfect blend of all my interests — CG animation, dinosaurs, plausible rendering, science and education. Dr. Lacovara had already worked with Evan Boucher on his thesis, a reconstruction of a Cretaceous crocodile called Thoracosaurus neocesariensis.

Thankfully, Dr. Lacovara said that he would love to back me in this project! I would be working with Emma Fowler, an undergraduate Paleontology student who has worked extensively on Dreadnoughtus and will be focusing on a different research question for her Senior Project. We’re going to be meeting some time next week to go over the details and see if this would be an appropriate thesis project that utilizes all of our skills and fulfills our course requirements.

Stay tuned for an update!