This coming Thursday evening on Catalyst (ABC 8.00 pm), Dr. Stephen Carey from the School of Science and Engineering at the University of Ballarat will be one of the featured scientists. Stephen is a geology lecturer who specialises in “soft rocks” – sedimentary rocks and the processes involved in their deposition and formation, such as fossilization and soil formation. Two or three years ago he was traipsing around south western Victoria checking out the lie of the land, when a farmer invited him to have a look at some interesting marks in a drying lake bed.
Stephen immediately recognised the marks as giant footprints – which is what the farmer had suspected all along. Great excitement followed and it wasn’t long before Stephen started to find fossil bones and teeth at the site as well as the tracks of several other types of animals. Stephen’s first task was to photograph and accurately map the site in case the water level rose again before work could be completed. A huge amount of work has been done on the site since, with the help of students from the University of Ballarat, who are very excited to dig up fossil giant kangaroo jaws and teeth. Other assistants included experts in radioisotope and other forms of dating of bones and teeth, others who analyse footprint distribution and size to calculate the weight of the animal and the speed of its movement over the terrain, others to help identify the deposits the tracks and fossils occur in, and still more to assist with the landscape history and age. It’s a great example of science in action – teams of people coming from all over the country to piece together a picture that we can make sense of and assume is close to the truth; a picture that tells us a great deal about past landscapes and climatic events in this part of the world.
So, if you are a budding paleantologist, or just interested in fossils and our ancient megafauna, you may like to tune in to “Catalyst” on ABC this Thursday evening at 8.00pm.
You may also be interested in the ABC’s “Australia’s Lost Kingdoms” site, with movies, fun and interactive games, a journey through time and your favourite animal characters, such as the Thylacine, Diprotodon and marsupial lion.