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Archive for November, 2011

One of the women chosen was Mary Anning, a fossil hunter who found multiple fossils and was a great scentist in her field; the group felt she would appeal to both boys and girls.

Mary Anning

Mary Anning (1799-1847) made several important discoveries as an amateur fossil collector in the first half of the nineteenth century, including a nearly complete skeleton of an Ichthyosaur. Her findings were key to the development paleontology as a scientific discipline in Britain.

Anning was born on May 21, 1799, in Lyme Regis, Dorset, England, the daughter of Richard and Mary Moore Anning. The Annings had nearly ten children, but only Mary and her elder brother Joseph survived to adulthood. On August 19, 1800, Anning narrowly escaped death during a lightening storm. She was one of four people who found shelter under an elm tree in Rack Field near Lyme Regis. Only Anning survived when the tree was struck by lightening. Local legend had it that her intelligence increased significantly after the incident

Discovered Ichthyosaur

In 1811 or 1812, Anning made her first important discovery. Though sources differ on the sequence of events and who was involved, it is clear that Anning was primarily responsible for the finding of a well-preserved, nearly complete skeleton of what came to be called an Ichthysaurus (“fish-lizard”). Some said that her brother Joseph found the skull first, or they found the head together, separate from the rest of the body. Others believed that Anning found the whole fossil on her own. Anning then hired workers to dig out the block in which it was embedded. In any case, the ten-meter (30 feet) long skeleton created a sensation and made Anning famous. She sold it to Henry Hoste Henley, a local collector, for £23. Eventually it made its way to the London Museum of Natural History, and a debate ensued over what to name the creature, a marine reptile with a long body and tail, small limbs, and trim head. It was dubbed Ichthysaurus in 1817.

This discovery was important to science as well as Anning’s livelihood. Though life in the Anning family was difficult for the next decade, Anning herself was developing important skills. She became a good observer, who could provide vital information to scientists. She knew the area well and became expert at predicting where fossils might be found after storms. Anning also became adept at removing the fossils without causing ant damage. Though Anning and her mother were the primary fossil hunters, they was often accompanied by her brother or a local friend, Henry De le Beche, who later became a geologist. The family was also aided by Thomas James Birch, who helped them sell many of their fossils before Anning became an adult.

Discovered Complete Plesiosaurus

In 1823, Anning made another important discovery, perhaps her greatest. She found the first complete Plesiosaurus (“near lizard”). This was a reptile that was nine-feet long and lived in the sea. It had a long neck, short tail, small head, and four flippers that were pointed and shaped like paddles. They were very rare, and Anning’s discovery led to the creation of a new genus. The specimen was sold to Richard Grenville for about £100, though sources differ and the amount could have been as much as $pound;200. Anning and her mother developed a reputation for being effective negotiators with those who wanted to buy their specimens.

By this time, Anning’s contributions and skills were being recognized by those in the field. She had her own retail shop in Lyme Regis. The shop was a tourist attraction that also drew interested scientists. Anning shared her knowledge with both segments of society when they visited Lyme Regis. Many were surprised at the level of her understanding of fossils. Anning also held an extensive correspondence with experts in the field, both in Britain and other countries. Yet, for Anning, this was also a business. She had a shrewd business sense and came to know her market well. She often sought out specialists or museums that paid more for her unusual fossil. With each major discovery, Anning started a bidding war. For example, her second complete Plesiosaurus was sold to the London Natural History Museum for £100.

In 1828, Anning made two major findings. She found the anterior sheath and ink bag of a Belemnosepia, an invertebrate. This was her first finding in invertebrate paleontology. The same year Anning also discovered a Pterodactylus macronyx, British pterosaur (“wing finger”), the first pterodactyl of the Dimorphodon genus. An Oxford University professor named this fossil. The discovery brought Anning even more attention, on a nation-wide level. It was this celebrity that might have prompted her visit to London in 1829, the only recorded leave she took of Lyme Regis. Anning continued to make important discoveries in 1829 and 1830. In the former, she found the fossil of Squaloraja, a fish that seemed to be an evolutionary step between rays and sharks. In 1830, Anning discovered a Plesiosaurus macrocephalus, which was bought for £200 by William Willoughby.

How do fossils form?

The term ‘fossilisation’ refers to a variety of often complex processes that enable the preservation of organic remains within the geological record. It frequently includes the following conditions: rapid and permanent burial/entombment – protecting the specimen from environmental or biological disturbance; oxygen deprivation – limiting the extent of decay and also biological activity/scavenging; continued sediment accumulation as opposed to an eroding surface – ensuring the organism remains buried in the long-term; and the absence of excessive heating or compression which might otherwise destroy it.

Fossil evidence is typically preserved within sediments deposited beneath water, partly because the conditions outlined above occur more frequently in these environments, and also because the majority of the Earth’s surface is covered by water (70%+). Even fossils derived from land, including dinosaur bones and organisms preserved within amber (fossilized tree resin) were ultimately preserved in sediments deposited beneath water i.e. in wetlands, lakes, rivers, estuaries or swept out to sea.

Two men showing off their fossil finds.

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Postcard task

I forgot to post this up previously; we were asked to create an art postcard, something which could be given out at conventions or other art gatherings to help showcase your work. I feel my strongest work is my character design, so I created a postcard which features one of my characters, a Victorian lady named Melanie. I feel pleased with the overall work, but feel that edits need to be taken should I actually use this as an art card; for example, I can see that the lace texture I scanned in for the background is far too dark, making it hard to read the text.

Art postcard

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Neg 1 thoughts and ideas

In my final year at University, my course dictates that must produce two projects along with my dissertation, both projects which must be self governed. This feels like a daunting process, since previously all Uni briefs were previously written by the tutors. However, I feel this will be an excellent learning curve and will help me to stand better on my own two feet!

First of all however I had to try and chose what I’d like to do in the first semester’s project.  This proved difficult, since I spent most of my summer working as a castmember in Disneyworld, Florida. This took up a lot more of my time then I ever thought it would, meaning I didn’t focus on my project as much as I feel I should have!

However, my group that I had created my magazine “Clockwork Express” had expressed a desire to develop and continue with the magazine. This was further pushed by the fact my group and I had been approached by Mike of Techiquest to present our magazine to schools. We’ll be appealing to the art council for funding for this project.

Our magazine was designed for young girls, to try and present to them the idea that women don’t have to be confided to the typical work placements associated with women. We wanted to be able to show young girls other directions their lives could take career wise by presenting a look into the lives and discoveries made by famous women throughout history.

We decided that we would create another edition of the magazine, and have the project set up with Mile to be a competition for the children of the schools we visit to create their own comics, their own stories about women from history. We plan on creating a new edition of the magazine, and using this as our basis for the presentation and contest. We plan on having it coincide with National Woman’s day, and hope that by doing this we can highlight the wonderful work women have done throughout history in typically male dominated roles, such as scientists and astronomers.

Once we’d decided that this was what we wanted to do, we decided that the best route to take was to tell the story of two scientists, to link in with women in science. It was quickly decided within the group that the two artists studying webcomics, Heather and Charlie, would create a comic each telling the story of a famous female scientist from history, while I would create the rest of the magazine, such as the front and back cover, the contents page, the page detailing the contest, and two sets of double page spreads of fact sheets relating to the chosen women, meaning I’ll have to produce eight pages in total. This feels like a daunting task, especially with the dissertation due as well, but I shall try my best.

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