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Learning Landscapes>Kids>THE DINOSAUR-TECHNOLOGY CONNECTION>The Dinosaur-Technology Connection - Location
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ON LOCATION

Introduction
In the Field
Back in the Lab
What We Can Learn

Introduction

The Red Gulch Dinosaur Tracksite, a 40-acre area, is the largest dinosaur tracksite in Wyoming, and the most thoroughly documented in the world from the Middle Jurassic Period (160 million to 180 million years ago). Most scientists believe the entire Bighorn Basin and most of Wyoming were covered by an ancient ocean called the Sundance Sea during this period. Experts thought that only sea-dwelling creatures could have lived in this area. So imagine their surprise when not only hundreds of dinosaur tracks were found, but thousands! It was clear that the dinosaur tracks were made just at the shoreline, not in deep ocean water. Scientists speculate that there must have been large areas of dry land to support not only dinosaurs, but also other animals and plants.

Through the use of photogrammetric technology, three-dimensional views of the dinosaur tracks found at Red Gulch, have been documented and can be studied for years.
The different colors in this image represent the differences in the depth of the print – the purple indicates the part of the foot that sunk deepest into the ground.Tracks help scientists determine what these ancient animals looked like and how they lived. (Dinosaur drawing by Thomas Adams)

Because these animals lived so long ago, and the evidence of their existence is fragile and incomplete, technology plays an important role for paleontologists studying dinosaurs and other extinct animals. The weather, visitors, and, unfortunately, sometimes vandalism can damage the dinosaur tracks that were left behind millions of years ago. Documenting the evidence that does exist is, therefore, very important. This is where Neffra Matthews comes into the picture. As a "photogrammetrist," she uses detailed photographs to produces maps that accurately document the location, formation, and size of the tracks left behind. These maps help scientists to reconstruct an image of the animals and to better understand how they lived. The mapping process Neffra uses provides an unbiased record of exactly what is on the ground at a given time.