Virtual paleontology is the study of three-dimensional fossil morphology using digital visualization. Several imaging techniques exist that can generate volumetric data, from serial grinding to high-powered x-ray tomographic microscopy and synchrotron microtomography. While valuable insights can be gleaned from a holistic view of fossil 3D morphology (i.e., bone or shell ultrastructure, microstratigraphy, etc.), volume renderings further enable quantification and manipulation of segmented elements within 3D reconstruction software. The principal focus of this discipline has been the examination of taxonomically significant features to elucidate phylogenetic affinities and functional morphology. However, applications addressing taphonomic questions-those pertaining to the preservational pathways of fossils-present a new and emerging field of interest. This seminar serves to illustrate a variety of projects that have employed virtual paleontology to leverage information from the fossil record across taxonomic groups and geologic time.
Dr. Jacquet is an assistant Professor, The College of Arts and Science Geological Sciences-University of Missouri. She obtained her PhD, Honours, majoring in palaeobiology, and Bachelor of Science major in palaeobiology through the Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia. Jacquet's research focus centers on paleobiology and sedimentology. Her research is broadly concerned with the paleobiology and functional morphology of fossil groups and the implicit biases introduced via taphonomic processes and sampling methodology. Using a combination of high-powered imaging (such as micro-CT), petrographic, and geochemical techniques she is able to tease apart the sources of such biases to gain a more holistic view of the fossil record.