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2nd February 2017

DigTrace team at the Summer Science Exhibition 2017

The annual Summer Science Exhibition showcase is the UK’s most prestigious science exhibition. This year our proposal to exhibit Footprints in the flower bed: from dinosaurs to forensic science at the Royal Society in London has been successful. Two of our team members have already attended the Exhibition Planning Day, and we are about to start our arrangements at large.

At the Royal Society during Planning Day

What our exhibit is going to be about??

Crime and Crime Scene dramas dominate popular media and have a strong public appeal. As for fossil footprints, these are fresh and evocative traces of vanished life… whether they were left by a dinosaur or an ancient human ancestor.

The procedures used by scene of crime officers have changed little in over 100 years; footwear evidence is still cast in plaster and photographed.  Footprints are therefore the much neglected ‘Cinderella’ evidence of the crime scene.  This is changing and the research team have fused computer science, archaeology and earth science to translate academic research on fossil footprints into freeware that is now being trialled by police forces across the country.  This work has the support of the Home Office and National Crime Agency.  The interdisciplinary nature of this work will ensure that there is something of interest for everyone in the project from those that are interested in ancient life, crime fighting or data science.  

Our exhibit will also show the power of research translation and application of academic endeavours to societal needs.

Photo by Daniel Marty

What are we planning to do?

The exhibit will be fully interactive with footprint related stuff going on. Our plans include:

  • full scale reproductions via 3D printing of dinosaur tracks and some of the most famous human footprints sites around the world;
  • a mocked-up crime scene in which we will invite visitors to collect footwear evidence using old and new footprint methods;
  • coding sessions using Python to show how our software was coded and created;
  • a citizen science experiment in which visitors will be asked to volunteer their footwear and to engage in its 3D analysis;
  • a T-Rex or Mammoth selfie opportunity potentially running outside the Royal Society on Carlton Terrace or on The Mall and may be something on the stand to as a wet weather option.

At the Royal Society in London

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