Social engagement in Dino 101

Happy new year folks! There are no pictures in this post, SORRY NOT SORRY.

A group of researchers at the University of Alberta recently published a study on learner engagement in Dino 101, and I thought I’d summarize it briefly here and share a few thoughts about it. You can read the original article online for free via Google Books: “Emotional and social engagement in a massive open online course: an examination of Dino 101“. You might also want to check out another summary of their data at the University of Alberta’s site.

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Burgers and Hot Dogs

Sydney Mohr is a friend and colleague of mine whose art you will have seen in the news lately, if you are inclined to read about ankylosaurs. She’s done amazing reconstructions of two ankylosaurs for me in the last year – Ziapelta and Gobisaurus – and so I asked her to take a few minutes and tell us about her process for creating her palaeoart. Also this way I get to show off more of her drawings, so yay!

Sydney decided that this Gobisaurus was named Burger, and that seemed fine with me. Continue reading

How the ankylosaur got its tail club

Ankylosaur tail clubs are odd structures, odder than they are usually given credit for. They represent substantial modifications to two different skeletal systems – the endoskeleton, in the form of the caudal vertebrae, and the dermal skeleton, in the form of the caudal osteoderms. The centra of the caudal vertebrae lengthen but stay robust, and the neural arches undergo huge changes, such that the prezygapophyses, postzygapophyses, and neural spine become a robust, V-shaped structure on the top of the centrum, and which creates a tightly interlocking vertebral series with almost no flexibility. We call this the handle of the tail club. The osteoderms at the tip of the tail smush together and two of them become huge: although the tail club knob is small in some species, there are colossal knobs exceeding 60 cm in width. The ankylosaur tail club represents one of the most extreme modifications to the tail in terrestrial tetrapods.

Look at that thing. That is a weird thing.

(This is UALVP 47273, a really nice club that I studied for my MSc work on tail club biomechanics.)

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Albertosaurus Bonebed Special Volume

And so it is back to ?serious business on the blog. Today I wanted to bring some attention to a major project in the Currie Lab for the last few years, a special volume of the Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences all about Albertosaurus. The whole glorious volume can be downloaded for free here if you’re coming from a Canadian IP address. Otherwise, your local library may provide access or you can email the very nice authors for a PDF.

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Let me introduce you to my little friends.

This blog is set up mostly so I can update friends and family about my summer’s exploits in Korea, China and Mongolia, but I may update with other travel and dinosaur news of interest from time to time.

My research is on the ankylosaurid dinosaurs, the ones with tail clubs, lots of armour, and, one may expect, bad attitudes. I like them because they have the thick skin and surly demeanor that I lack in real life.

Here are some pictures from a paper on tail clubs I published in PLoS One in 2009.

Thus does the blogging commence.