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Dr. Bodenbender's Research

I am interested in applying new methods to problems in geology and invertebrate and vertebrate paleontology. My current work focuses on a variety of photographic methods for studying landscapes and objects, including digital photogrammetry, which creates 3-D computer models from digital photographs of geological features or fossils. Ongoing photogrammetry projects include modeling sand dunes in order to measure rates of erosion and sand accumulation, and creating in-the-round computer models of fossils. Other recent work has included the excavation of Jurassic dinosaurs near Shell, Wyoming. I also have long-standing interests in studying the evolution of patterns of crystal orientations in fossil echinoderm skeletons, and in using stratigraphic data to help infer evolutionary relationships.

Measuring sand movement using GigaPan panoramas - In research supported by the Michigan Space Grant Consortium, I am exploring the use of on-line panoramas composed of dozens or hundreds of close-up photos to rapidly measure sand dune pins. Our goal is to set up a network of pins across a sand dune, take photographs of the site, and after we return to the lab measure changes in the amount of sand around the base of each pin. If successful, this research will greatly speed up field work, allowing us to expand the amount of data we can gather at a field site. It will also allow us to measure changes in unstable sand areas without walking on them.

Time lapse field photography - In a project that originated from student interests and abilities, my students and I are developing flexible, relatively inexpensive camera systems to monitor changes in the sand dunes over days to weeks. Time lapse photos can capture the effects of high energy events such as wind storms, as well as record conditions between data-collecting trips at study sites that use other instruments such as dune pins to measure changes.

Modeling sand dunes – I am using pole aerial photography and other methods to take digital photos of sand dune landscapes.  I build the photos into 3D computer models, with the goal of comparing changes in models over time to measure sand movement in different parts of the dune environment.  This may help assess how significantly people affect dunes compared to natural processes.  Image of sand dune and vegetation at Saugatuck Harbor Natural Area taken from radio-controlled camera on 16-foot pole.


3D computer models of dinosaur bones – The goal of this project is to use digital photogrammetry to create in-the-round, photorealistic computer models of dinosaur bones.  These models record the dimensions of fossils better than still photos, are easier to copy and transport that the real fossils, and can contribute to a virtual specimen identification guide.  Photos of dinosaur femur taken at 15 degree intervals, for creation of 3D computer model.


Annotated 3D outcrops –  I am working to produce 3D models of rock outcrops.  These will have overlays available to highlight important features.  The models can serve as virtual field trips for classes or labs.  They are also educational aids to help train new geologists to see geologically important details.  Camera and tripod set up to model Z fold at Mission Creek, Kelowna, British Columbia.


Crinoid skeletal crystallography – I am documenting patterns in the orientations of the crystals that fossil sea lilies use to build their skeletons.  These patterns can show evolutionary relationships among these fossil animals, as well as reveal clues to how they grew their skeletons.  Light reflecting off microscopic calcite crystals grown on crinoid stem and cirri in order to measure crystallographic orientations.