Digitizing Dinosaur Footprints

Editor’s note: ReBecca Hunt-Foster, District Paleontologist for the Canyon Country District of the BLM  in Southeastern Utah, encouraged interns and other scientists working with her in the summer of 2017 to write articles for us. This is one of three articles we received. We thank ReBecca and the authors for their contributions and encourage all scientists and students to consider the FOSSIL Project as an outreach opportunity.

by Danielle Ward

Danielle Ward

My name is Danielle Ward, and I am a recent graduate from the University of Utah with a Master of Science in Geography. Over the course of this past summer, I’ve had the opportunity to work at the BLM Moab Field Office as a GIS intern through the Geological Society of America® GeoCorps and the BLM Direct Hire Authority Programs. My main project focused on the Mill Canyon Dinosaur Tracksite, located northeast of Arches National Park in Southeastern Utah. Discovered in 2009, the tracksite preserves over two hundred dinosaur tracks from six different kinds of dinosaur. The site opened to the public in 2016, however at the time of my arrival a map of the site, and all the tracks it contained, had yet to be created. Therefore, my goal for the summer was to digitize all the tracks and then create a map of the site that could be used to educate the public.

To digitize the tracks, I used photogrammetric data taken by Neffra Matthews, a geographer working at the BLM national operations center, who collected in the data in 2015. Tracks were then digitized in Esri ArcMap using this data as a guide. Additionally, weekly trips out to the tracksite with BLM district paleontologist ReBecca Hunt-Foster were made in order to verify the accuracy of the map. The final product is a map containing every track in at the Mill Canyon Dinosaur Tracksite, which will go on display in spring 2018. Additionally, an interactive online version of the map will be hopefully be available to the public by the end of 2017.

The map on the left is the Mill Canyon Tracksite with each different track color-coded by the track maker who created the tracks. The map on the right shows the grid checked to verify the identity of each track at the site.



Acknowledgements: This project would not have been possible without the Geological Society of America® GeoCorps Program and the Bureau of Land Management. The GeoCorps Program was developed by the National Park Service Geologic Resources Division (GRD) in 1996. The BLM partners with the Geological Society of America (GSA) to administer the Geocorps Program. Thanks to Moab BLM Paleontologist ReBecca Hunt-Foster for her guidance and help. Photogrammetry data was provided by Neffra Matthews.

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