We next decided to interview Bruce Woollatt, another one of our regular data contributors. Bruce may be well-known to many of you who follow the Dinosaur Mailing List as the person who is building the 1/10 scale T. rex – in addition to his artistic talents, he has done a fantastic turn at verifying and entering all sorts of data from old and obscure literature!
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from? What do you do (professionally)? Any other interesting facts?
I was born, raised and live in London, Ontario, Canada which is sadly lacking in nearby Mesozoic exposures. My stay on Earth has lasted 47 orbits of the sun so far. I’ve had a lifelong interest in dinosaurs, having never “outgrown” them as so many kids do. My academic background is in history and philosophy (rather than science) but I earn my keep in the wonderful world of retail sales in a local camera shop. Go figure. I enjoy photography, reading and building dinosaurs. Over the years I’ve done a number of dinosaur sculptures and murals for the London Regional Children’s Museum including a life-size head of Parasaurolophus. You can see these here. My current project is a 1/10 scale T.rex skeleton which I am building for my own enjoyment as an on-line project at conceptart.org. You can follow along as I post progress reports here.
Why did you decide to participate in the ODP?
I decided to join the ODP because I thought it would be neat to make a contribution (however small) to paleontology. I’ve never dug into an outcrop but I’ve had plenty of experience digging into libraries!
So far, what has been the best part of the ODP for you, and why?
For me the best part of the ODP has been passing along the work of others, being a link in the chain. Some of the materials I was going through were nearly a century old; while nothing next to the sweeping expanse of time that paleontology routinely traverses, a century is a long time for us as individuals. Most of the data I was going through had been collected and published by people who are now dead; indeed some had died decades before I was born. I wondered what they would have thought of all the things we’ve learned in the meantime and all the new techniques that have been brought to the study of ancient life. I think they would have been amazed; I think they would have wanted to join in the dance. I feel that in a very small way I am helping them do just that. It has been an honour and a privilege to help pass on their legacy while at the same time contributing to new uses of that knowledge.
What have you learned from your participation in the ODP?
I have learned a bit about the collegial nature of science. Not that I am a scientist myself, but I do get a sense of the collaborative aspect of the enterprise. While I have never met any of the other people on the ODP, looking at the verification list and public data and I can see I’m a member of a team. A very busy team it is too. That’s cool!
What advice would you give those who might be interested in helping out with the ODP?
My advice is this: be your own verifier. Check stuff carefully and be sure you’ve entered things in the right boxes. Sometimes this can be tricky because once you’ve scrolled lower down on the data entry table the column headers disappear and it’s all too easy to enter a left femur figure as a right femur or as an unspecified femur. I know; I did it. More than once. Something I did that was helpful in avoiding this was to write out on a sheet of paper the code letters for the different measurements so that I knew that column AZ was the correct space to enter the length of the right femur, BA for the left femur, etc. Also, don’t forget to enter the page number(s) on which you found your data. (yes, this too is the voice of experience).