Tracks are some of my favorite fossils, because they show what prehistoric creatures actually did while they were alive. They're the closest thing we have to a film recording of extinct creatures. Imagine, being able to actually see what a living creature did hundreds of millions of years ago.New Mexico college students are using drones to help map the location of dinosaur tracks at a state park, the latest project to use drone technology to gather data from historical sites in the American West.
New Mexico State Parks recently announced it is teaming up with Central New Mexico Community College students and the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science to map out the footprints at Clayton Lake State Park, the Albuquerque Journal reports.
The park located in the northeastern part of the state contained track sites that give can give scientists key information about the ancient reptiles.
Central New Mexico Community College instructor Rick Watson says students will fly the drones from different heights in order to record a variety of details.
Once the project is complete, students will place the photographs, 3-D models, maps and other findings on a website.
"The public will be able to access to the website," he said. "It's designed to help people explore the track site from anywhere in the world."
Spencer Lucas, a curator of paleontology at the museum, said the hundreds of tracks found at Clayton Lake, which is about 4½ hours from Albuquerque, are from four different species of dinosaurs and were all made within a year.
"The Clayton Lake site is a treasure," he said. "The track sites are about 100 million years old and along an ancient sea coast."
Clayton Lake was created when officials dammed up Seneca Creek north of Clayton in the 1960s. Construction of the dam's spillway unveiled the tracks, which were embedded in sandstone.
Rick Leonhardt, a semi-retired psychotherapist, is one of the students working on the projects. His first career, he said, was as a geologist and now practices it as a hobby.
"This will help us digitally preserve these tracks," he said. "We are putting procedures in place to collect the data so others can duplicate the process in the future."
The dinosaur track drone project comes as researchers from the University of Denver are using images gathered from a drone to create a 3D reconstruction of a World War II-era Japanese internment camp in southern Colorado.
Researchers last month dispatched the drone from the Switzerland-based company senseFly as part of a mapping project to help future restoration work at Camp Amache in Granada, Colorado.
This is some good work, and a good use of drone technology.