I was involved in some fun research that was finally published last year, and I didn’t have chance to write blog posts for all of it, so here’s a summary of what came out of the Falkingham lab last year:
The year started off with a paper led by collaborators at Brown. My simulation work is an incredibly data-dense resource (every movement of every grain of sand in a footprint), and understanding that is not straight forward. The computer visualization experts at Brown have been using a Virtual Reality ‘Yurt’ to try and find new ways of exploring and understanding what’s going on when a virtual foot interacts with a virtual substrate. We published on this in the journal IEEE transactions on visualization and computer graphics. Well outside the normal biology/palaeontology remit, but great fun nonetheless.
This was followed up by a paper led by Dr Kristen Crandell, from Bangor University on the evolutionary relationship between morphology and drag reduction in the kingfisher family, published in Royal Society Interface. This was a really fun paper to be involved with, and I’m grateful to Kris for including me. It’s a neat paper too, even if I say so myself – combining physical experiments with CFD simulations.
Two of my PhD students published the first papers from their PhDs this year too, which was great to see:
Pernille Troelsen (now Dr Troelsen, having successfully defended her PhD last year) saw her paper on plesiosaur hydrodynamics published, in which she led a team looking at just what effects the long neck in plesiosaurs might have had on their swimming performance. In light of plesiosaurs being extinct, and therefore being difficult to observe and measure, Pernille used CFD to simulate plesiosaurs swimming, changing neck length and curvature, and looking at the effects. Her work was published in the Journal of Vertebrate Palaeontology.
Cat Strickson also so her first PhD paper published in the Journal of Anatomy. Cat was exploring the relationship between under-foot area calculated using soft tissues, and also just bones. Utilizing CT scans, Cat spent many months segmenting a whole bunch of scans of feet, and measuring the contact area they would have with the ground. The result is a fairly consistent relationship between ‘skeletal area’ and ‘soft-tissue area’, but interestingly that relationship is different between the manus and pes – a really important finding in the context of the rest of her PhD. (Cat’s paper actually has a 2020 date now due to the nature of publishing)
Finally, just before the year closed out, a paper led by Prof Jim Farlow made it into the journal Ichnos. This had been on the burner for a while, first submitted well back in 2018. It was a cool description of a site in Texas with manus-only sauropod trackways. I had some really interesting conversations with Jim about how the tracks were formed, and we went back and forth between punting sauropods and variable underfoot pressures. I think in the end, we have a really thorough paper exploring a whole bunch of data to interpret a site.
It wasn’t a mind-bendingly productive year, and I’m disappointed that I didn’t get a first author paper out (I like to aim for at least 1 or 2 per year). There’s a couple of manuscripts currently sitting at the review/revision stage that I’m really excited about, particularly a couple that continue analyses of XROMM data collected 5-6 years ago now, but we’ll have to see how 2020 goes.