Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Taphonomy Board Game- College Edition

Lab alumna Anna Weiss and I developed an educational board game about fossilization: "Taphonomy: Dead and Fossilized".  The game is modeled after the Ya Ha Tinda Lagerstätte, an Early Jurassic-aged fossil deposit in Canada. Through competitive play, game players learn about taphonomy (i.e., processes that affect an organism as it fossilizes).

Over the past year and a half, we have been testing the game as an educational activity for colleges and universities. Our paper about the study is now available online (open access) in the Journal of Geoscience Education (Curriculum and Instruction)! The paper describes the learning objectives of the game as well as modifications for your specific classroom needs.

Rowan C. Martindale & Anna M. Weiss 

Everything you need to play the game and use it as a lab activity can be found here:

We also have a SERC "Teach the Earth" page about the game: There is also a "High school version" in the works!

If you want to learn more about the site this game is based on, I gave a public talk about the site at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology. More detail about this and other games can be found here:

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Lab Group Love

Over the years I have had the absolute pleasure to work with some amazing people here at UT Austin. With my first PhD student graduating this year, I thought it would be fun to look at how the lab group has changed over the years!

Martindale Lab 2018/2019 
This year we took the photo during exam week so unfortunately, we are missing half the crew. 
Left to Right: Dr. Drew Muscente (Postdoc), Sean Kacur (Undergraduate honors student), Dr. Rowan Martindale (PI), Dr. Anna Weiss (freshly minted Doctor of Philosophy!)

Martindale Lab 2017/2018
Left to Right: Mackenzie White (Undergrad researcher), Rebecca Ryan (Undergrad researcher), Anna Weiss (PhD Student), Dr. Rowan Martindale (PI), Sean Kacur (Undergrad honors student), Jordan Oefinger (Undergrad researcher), Brooke Bogan  (Undergrad researcher).
Martindale Lab 2016/2017

Left to Right: Dr. Rowan Martindale (PI), Walker Weiss (Undergrad thesis student), Hannah Brame (PhD Student), Kelly Hattori (MSc Student), Anna Weiss (PhD Student), Nick Ettinger (MSc Student), Dr. William Foster (Postdoc).
Martindale Lab 2015/2016
Left to Right: Nick Ettinger (MSc Student), Anna Weiss (PhD Student), Selva Marroquín (MSc Student), Dr. Rowan Martindale (PI), Kelly Hattori (MSc Student), Chiara Tornabene (MSc Student), Dr. William Foster (Postdoc).

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Educational Board Games!

My Ph.D. Student Anna Weiss and I are developing an educational board game about fossilization. The game is called "Taphonomy: Dead and Fossilized"

Through competitive play, game players learn about taphonomy (i.e., processes that affect an organism as it fossilizes) and how biology, environment, physical and chemical changes during exposure, burial, and decomposition, as well as discovery biases influence whether or not an organism is collected. Players attempt to preserve the best fossil collection by “time traveling” to the Jurassic; there they protect their specimens from taphonomic factors (either from random environmental events or other players) and learn what processes enhance or diminish preservation. Players then return to the present to recovery their specimens and learn that collection also biases sample recovery.

"Taphonomy: Dead and Fossilized" is modeled after the Ya Ha Tinda Lagerstätte, an Early Jurassic-aged fossil deposit in Canada. If you want to learn more about the site this game is based on, I gave a public talk about the site at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology. Link here:

The game was debuted at the 2018 GSA Annual Meeting and is currently being tested in undergraduate classrooms across the United States. For more information, check out the game website here:

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Flash Flood!

Sometimes when it rain in the High Atlas, you get a flash flood.
While our research team was in Morocco for field work we experienced one of these events while we were (fortunately) in our Auberge (hotel) safe and dry! Being the Geology nerd I am, I had to take some videos of this awesome geomorphology event happening.

NOTE: If you want to use these gifs/videos for teaching, you are welcome to do so, but please credit me (Dr. Rowan Martindale, UT Austin) when you do.

This was the rainstorm (which also included hail) that started it all!

Our hike that day had taken us up the gully to the top of this hill. We went back to the Auberge when the dark clouds rolled in and started to threaten rain.... I am glad we did!

Here it comes!

While it may not look like much, this stream was easily moving basketball-sized boulders. Sitting in the Auberge, we could feel them hitting the bedrock!

The river built it's own little alluvial fan on the road and started cutting channels!

Fortunately, I never park my car in this spot.

Some very brave people decided they would cross in between rainstorms...

Eventually the bulldozer got in and cleaned up the largest debris...

But then it started raining again and the river roared back up to full flow!

The next day was lovely and we were back up the mountain for field work!

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

General Public Talk on Ya Ha Tinda at RTMP

Last week I trekked up to Alberta to give a talk at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology (write up here). I spoke about the exceptional fossils found at Ya Ha Tinda Ranch and how this site can help us understand Oceanic Anoxic Events in the Early Jurassic. The talk was a "general public" talk so it should (hopefully) be easy to understandable for everyone.

Here it is, enjoy!

I also got to (finally) see the display case with the Ya Ha Tinda specimens!

Monday, February 12, 2018

Happy birthday Charles Darwin!

Today, February 12th, 2018, is Charles Darwin's birthday (he would have been 208 today!). To celebrate this auspicious day, here are some photos and gifs from this weekend's "Darwin Day" celebration in Austin.

We dusted off our dino trackway and laid it out! The kids (and adults) put on dinosaur shaped shoes, step in some paint, and then walk along a piece of paper to make a "fossil trackway".

Then, they get to be a Paleontologist! They measure the foot size, and their stride length.

These measurements let them figure out what sort of dinosaur they would have been (Microraptor? Tyrannosaurus? etc.) and how fast they were going (as fast as a raccoon or faster than a horse?). They even get a certificate and their trackway to take home!

It is such a fun exercise, even the grad students running it wanted to have a go during the breaks!

And of course, what kind of a birthday would it be without cake?!?

Happy birthday Chuck!

Friday, October 13, 2017

Ya Ha Tinda on Display

This month, the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology is unveiling a new iteration of their "Fossils in Focus" display. This display is an annual exhibit of the new fossil discoveries and research associated with Alberta's fossils and the museum. 

This year several fossils from the Ya Ha Tinda Lagerstätte are on display! 

 A belemnoid with soft tissue, a crinoid, and a fish skull!

Complete with a little blurb and some drawings!

I'm pretty excited, this is the first museum exhibit at the RTMP that I have helped design.

So, if you're in Alberta, stop by the Tyrrell (the whole museum is worth a visit!), and check out your little display.

To read more about these fossils, check out the following papers and news articles: