Making 3D data/photographs available Part 1: Neoichnology


Those of you visiting the site may have noticed a new menu option up top there; ‘Resources’.

This is where I’m going to organise and make available data.

For now, I’m making a selection of modern tracks available that include mammals, birds, and invertebrates. Such as this Goose footprint and metatarsus impression:

Dinosaur tracks will follow some time in the future, as evidenced by the menu option.

However, I’m not just throwing these on my own site, oh no! I am uploading zip folders containing both photographs and my own 3D reconstructions made using either VisualSFM or Photoscan (depending on what’s to hand at the time) to FigShare. That means that every dataset should have a citable DOI.

You can cite them as:

Falkingham, P. L. <year of upload>, <title>, figshare, <DOI>.

Uploading both photos and model means that as software advances, people can use the photos to produce far better models than I’m capable of right now. Or they can just take a look at the pictures.

These datasets have been recorded mostly ad-hoc; If I come across something when I’m out and about that I consider interesting, particularly in relation to interpreting enigmatic fossil tracks, I’ll record it. However, that means there’s a few caveats to these data:

  • I don’t always have my main camera with me, and so occasionally (or even frequently!) I’ll use my camera phone. This results in lower quality images, but as you’ll see they’re generally good enough for photogrammetry. On the positive side, when I take photos with my phone the GPS coordinates will be recorded in the EXIF tags of the jpg.
  • I also don’t always carry  a scale bar. Well, actually I pretty much do, but sometimes it’s not possible to put one in the images for various reasons.  As such be careful about scale before measuring anything from the models.  Unless I’ve created the model for my own research programs, I’m unlikely to have scaled the model – I leave that to you.
  • Identifications are based on my fairly poor ability to identify animals from their tracks.  Sometimes, I’ll see the track being made, and can be pretty confident, but other times I may be making an educated guess.  Just bear that in mind, and if you think I’ve got an ID very wrong, send me an email and I’ll change the description on this site (FigShare data can’t be changed after publication, because of the DOI).
  • There aren’t models for all datasets.  Some downloads are just photos because I took them before I was into photogrammetry. However, I consider them interesting enough in light of interpreting fossil tracks that I’m including them here.

Why am I doing this?  Well, a couple of reasons actually. The first is just being open; I’m by no means fanatical about open access, though I generally think it’s a good idea. The second is far more selfish and practical, in that I want to be able to have an organised collection available for my own research and my student’s research, and hosting in this way is easier than spreading data over multiple hard drives.

So there we go.  I’ve no idea what the demand for this kind of data is, but as I mentioned, my students, collaborators and I will at least benefit from it being hosted. Feel free to download and use however you see fit (all datasets published under CC-BY).

Side note:
One consideration…  If multiple people start doing this, the benefits of having a curated, central repository (with data stored non-centrally) will disappear rapidly, as people will have to search multiple places for tracks. Perhaps if you want to do something similar, you could get in touch and we could find a way to collaborate to make sure datasets remain easily cross-searchable/discoverable.



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