In 1998, Dan Buesching found part of a mastodon skull that had been buried for nearly 12,000 years. In conjunction with Tech Transfer, the Buesching family has agreed to let the University of Michigan create accurate plaster casts of the excavated mastodon for research and educational purposes. Preserving information about mastodons in both physical and virtual models helps researchers, and interested museum-goers, learn more about these creatures, and their environment. Their bones provide clues as to how they lived in various environments, how humans used the animals, and possible explanations for the many mass extinctions of their era.
Led by Daniel Fisher, at the U-M Museum of Paleontology, a team of current and graduated students use the HandyScan laser scanner to create accurate, 3D models of excavated mastodon bones. These models of femurs, tibias, and tusks can then be printed in plaster using the FDM Z-510, glued together, and arranged to form a physical skeleton. And, the models can be arranged digitally to create a virtual skeleton, further extending the possibilities for research and sharing information.
By Josephine Keenan