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With our satellite dish at the ready, the sun shining and half a dozen Museum scientists raring to go, last weekend's Nature Live events went down a storm!

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Linking back to the studio from the harbour in Lyme Regis, we brought the annual Fossil Festival to South Kensington. For visitors who were unable to visit the south coast in person, we revealed why Lyme Regis is THE place to go fossil hunting and showed our audiences some of the weird and wonderful specimens that can be found there.

 

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Museum curator Zoe Hughes reveals an Ammonite, found in the local area.

 

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Does this count as Big Pond dipping?

 

Sunday's events brought us up to date with the organisms that call our seashore home. I was out first thing trying my luck with my bucket and net. I think I was the oldest 'rock-pooler' on the beach!  Unfortunately, I didn't manage to find very much, except for lots of seaweed ... but this proved to be far more interesting than I had first thought!

 

Museum scientist Lucy Robinson explained that there are many different species of seaweed to be found along our coastline, varying in colour, shape and size. She also explained the various ways seaweeds and their extracts can be used - in toothpaste, ice-cream, fertilizer and cosmetics (to name but a few).

 

And of course, some types of seaweed can be eaten - such as sea lettuce. Lucy and I decided to give it a go ... our conclusion, it's very salty and a bit crunchy (but I think that may have been sand!)  To find out more about seaweed and how to identify them, visit our Big Seaweed Search pages.

 

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Yum!

 

Lyme Regis is a great place to visit at any time of the year. If you're interested in fossil hunting, look out for the many guided walks that are on offer throughout the year, giving you the opportunity to explore the beaches with a local palaeontologist who knows what to look out for and who can tell you more about the fossils that are found there.

 

And if you'd like to experience the Fossil Festival for yourselves, put this date in your diaries: Saturday 3 and Sunday 4 May 2014. If this year is anything to go by, it will be another great weekend!

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Saturday and Sunday at the Lyme Regis Fossil Festival were busy in the tent. Lots of people swarmed around our fossil table to see the invertebrates and sharks on display, talk to our experts and get their own fossil finds identified.

 

Adrian Glover was showing off his ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle), sending it out into the sea to get live images of the sea floor! Alex Ball was showing people the wonders of the scanning electon microscope and the meteorites team were explaining impacts using pink gravel.

 

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Laetitia Gunton launching "REX" the ROV and Adrian Glover controlling from inside the tent.


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Just some of the Museum scientists at work on Saturday.

 

Martin Munt, Emma Bernard and I were also called upon to do a live link-up with the Nature Live studio back at the Museum, to talk about the fossil festival and going fossil hunting. We took along a selection of specimens to help us talk about some of the things that can be found in Lyme Regis.

 

David Nicholson was live in the Attenborogh Studio with Ana Rita and some specimens from the collection we selected last week. Our filming took place at the Cobb (harbour) in glorious sunshine. This did however mean that both Emma and I got slightly sunburnt! If you do come down, make sure you've got plenty of sun cream.

 

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Martin being interviewed for the 12.30 show (top). Me and Emma talking about a nautilus and a shark with Charlotte for the 2.30 show (below).

 

It's not just specimens on display - outside you can visit a pliosaur cinema and go on the Jurassic airline!

 

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The Pliosaur Cinema!

 

We also had some special guests come along to talk to us: Mary Anning and Charles Darwin! (well...people dressed as them at least).

 

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Mary Anning and Charles Dawrin.

 

Today is the last day of the fossil festival and its looking like is will be another busy day in the tent with lovely weather and lots of people on the beach eating ice cream.

 

We hope you have enjpyed reading this blog and hope to see you next year at the festival!


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It was our first day at the festival proper yesterday, and the weather was great!

 

We had a day of great interactions with local primary schools. Scientists from the Museum brought along a massive cast of a baryonyx skull, and visitors were invited to take a closer look at some microscopic life through one of our amazing scanning electron microscopes (SEM).

 

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Cast of the skull of Baryonyx, a Cretaceous dinosaur with huge claws for hooking fish 


Other great exhibitors included:

 

  • The Buckland Club, who invited the public to help excavate a model plesiosaur
  • Rock Watch, running creative plasticine fossil workshops
  • The University of Plymouth, who measured visitors' strides to work out which dinosaur they are most like
  • a great collaborative artwork of the Jurassic coast, led by artist Darrell Wakelam

 

photo 2(1).JPGThe fine art of fossil excavation

 

Here's hoping for some good weather this bank holiday weekend! More news from the learning team soon.

 

Posted on behalf of Emily, Ben and Jade from the Museum's learning team.

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Having arrived in Lyme Regis yesterday, greeted by sunshine and sweet salty sea air, we have been exploring the seashore and getting our bearings today.

 

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Lyme Regis

 

No visit to Lyme is complete without a trip to the beach to go fossil hunting!  Keeping an eye on the tides, we headed out first thing this morning to try our luck.  Museum scientist Ed Baker is a regualr visitor to the Jurassic Coast and showed us what to look for.  Rounded rocks can sometimes contain beautiful fossils...but need to be cracked open to reveal the animal or plant within.  This requires a special geological hammer (ordinary ones can shatter if used!) and a touch of experience/skill (cracking the rock open at the right angle is important).  Fortunately Ed has both of these things and showed us how it was done....

 

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Rounded rocks are hit along the edge using the blunt end of the hammer


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Several ammonites are revealed within the rock

 

But you can also find fossils without the need for hammers.  By looking carefully and sifting through the rocks on the beach, you never know what you might find.  Ammonite fossils are pretty common and vertebrae and other bones from fossil marine reptiles can be found by the keen eyed.

 

With our pockets bulging with our dicoveries and faces glowing from the sun and sea air, we headed back into town to start setting up the satellite equipment for this weekend's live links.  If you can't make it down to Lyme Regis, why not join our museum scientists in the Attenborough Studio at the Museum as we link to you live from the festival....

 

 

You can also follow us on Twitter @NatureLive

 

For more information about the Fossil Festival, visit www.fossilfestival.com

 

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Honorary member of the team Ed Baker helps Media Techs Tony and Eddie set up our satellite equipment

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The Museum learning engagement team's first day at the Lyme Regis Fossil Festival ended yesterday and it was an epic day!

 

We were up at 6.30 to start at 8 yesterday at Thomas Hardye School, where five schools from the Dorset area participated in earth science related activities throughout the day. The team have been helping students investigate a dinosaur dig and identify what they uncover.


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Jade assists a willing group of fossil hunters

 

Other activities included creating meteor impact craters and extracting copper from malachite using electricity!

 

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Extracting copper from the mineral malachite

 

Scientists from the Museum brought lots of amazing specimens for the 450 students, including tektites, formed from sand rapidly heated by meteorite impacts and ejected to form these beautiful tear drops shapes.

 

photo 2.JPGA tektite (on the left) formed when sand is rapidly heated by a meteorite impact, with a pound coin for scale.

 

Other highlights included the biodiversity team's activity, where students identified bugs and other arthropods, contributing to important citizen science data. There was also a great stand featuring Thomas Hardye's very own Fossil Club, who were busy inspiring fellow students to get into fossils.

 

We finished packing up, headed to Lyme Regis to set up for the festival on the water front and today's primary school day, (and finished off with some well earned fish and chips!)

 

The festival runs from today until Sunday 5 May so if you're in the area come and join us and many other exhibitors for more earth science fun!

 

Posted on behalf of Emily, Ben and Jade from the Museum's learning team.

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Yesterday, we went to a secondary school in Dorchester. We set up our stand along with several others from the Museum, local fossil groups and the school's fossil club. At our stand we were giving students a brief explanation of taxonomy (how you classify all living things), specifically cephalopods.

 

We explained the difference between three major groups of cephalopod: ammonites, belemnites and nautiloids. The belemnite phragmacone we found yesterday proved to be very useful in explaining how a belemnite dealt with buoyancy control. The children enjoyed examining the recent nautilus we had with us to locate the hole for the siphuncle.

 

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Zuzanna Wawrzyniak and Emma Bernard with our taxonomy stand (Zoe Hughes as photographer)

 

After the school event we returned to Lyme Regis to help set up the tent for the main event: the Fossil Festival. Our main earth science table is set up, with specimens for the public to handle starting today. We constructed the Baryonyx skull and helped David Ward set up his shark sieving activity.

 

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Nearly finished setting up in the tent (with the Baryonyx spine and skull on the left)

 

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David Ward setting up the shark sieving (to find fossil teeth, etc).

 

Today is the primary school day and we have been told approximately 600 children willl be visiting - wish us luck and we will report back soon!

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The sun is shining, the bank holiday weekend is approaching, what better time to head down to the coast? But this is no regular seaside jaunt because this weekend Nature Live is joining scientists from the Museum, Plymouth University, the British Antarctic Survey and the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton to name but a few (! ) for the annual Fossil Festival in Lyme Regis. It's free, open to all and crammed full of exciting events and activities. 

 

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The coast at Lyme Regis

 

 

Nature Live will be linking live, via satellite, back to the studio in South Kensington, reporting on all the comings and goings at the festival, new fossil discoveries along the coast of Lyme Regis and where's the best place in town for a decent ice-cream (extensive sampling will be taking place throughout the weekend!)

 

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A seagull stole Natalie's (centre) ice-cream shortly after this photo was taken at Lyme Regis last year!

 

So, if you're free this bank holiday weekend, come and join us in Lyme Regis - more details about the festival can be found here - or join us in the Museum for the following events:

 

 

You can also follow us on Twitter @NatureLive

 

Now, it's time to track down some ammonites ...

 

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We arrived on Tuesday, set up what will be our home for the week, with a stream babbling under.

 

We spent today visiting fossil shops and talking to the owners to see what was on offer and meet the collectors. We then went to the Lyme Regis Museum to talk to our colleagues there about new specimens and the local geology. Whilst there Emma had some fun dressing up as Mary Anning, the 'Princess of Palaeontology'.

 

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Emma dressed as Mary Anning with a newly acquired Ichthyosaur skull.

 

In the afternoon (after an ice cream by the sea) we set off for Seatown where we learnt about the geology and did a little fieldwork. The geology is the upper Lower Lias (about 185 Million years ago) - it is a marine setting with lots of belemnites and ammonites.

 

We found lots of bits of belemnite, but the highlight was definitely finding a phragmocone of a belemnite; the cone-shaped structure that housed the creature's internal organs. Of the ammonites, Aegeroceras was the most common find. However we did find part of an Amaltheus (My favourite Jurassic ammonite because of its rope-like keel).

 

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Seatown in the glorious sunshine.

 

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One of the many ammonites (Aegeroceras) we found

 

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Emma and Zoe in the field at Seatown.

 

Tomorrow we are heading off to a secondary school event in Dorchester to explain the wonders of cephalopod taxonomy. Now we are heading off to grab some well earned dinner! Come back to read more about our adventure!

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Phew! We are all somewhat tired but very inspired by our long weekend in Lyme Regis, and some us have the sniffles from hanging about in the cold weather and doing too much talking! The Fossil Festival's own broadband was disconnected before I could update my blog on Sunday evening , so I am writing from the comfort of my office at the Museum.

 

Sunday was possibly the busiest day of the whole weekend! The sun came out and the weather warmed up, bringing in lots of visitors. Some of them brought yet more local fossils for us to identify - two that I remember were an uncommon Chalk sea urchin called Conulus, that I recalled seeing only once before many years ago, and a rather lovely black coprolite. Do you know what that means? It means 'poo rock', and it was probably produced by one of the Jurassic marine reptiles or fish whose skeletons are found in the rocks at Lyme. Its young owner was very pleased with himself! Here it is:

 

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Coprolites contain the remains of meals - things like fish scales, bone fragments or whatever the animal had been eating. Cool eh?

 

Those of us that were staying until Monday were very kindly invited to join the fossil walk departing from Lyme Regis Museum at 11.30, led by expert collectors Chris and Paddy. They provided their own brand of lively fossil edutainment for over three hours, and the sun shone for most of that time!

 

We heard an explanation of the geology and palaeontology at this site, and before approaching the toe of the landslip, we were briefed on how to find fossils safely. At the end, Paddy split some nodules and gave all the youngsters an ammonite to keep. Apparently I wasn't young enough.

 

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Do note that Paddy wears eye protection and uses a proper geological hammer. He still has both of his eyes and all of his fingers, and would like it to stay that way.

 

Maybe you were wondering what I found? Here is is. Can you guess?

 

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Yes, it's another coprolite, but mine was left by a shark. They have a spiral valve in their intestine, which causes the poo to come out in a spiral shape, like a fat corkscrew. Or a 'Mr Whippy' as one lady said. Some people asked how I spotted it - I am not sure, but I do own a small dog... He wasn't with me on this trip though! (sorry Dookie, maybe next time).

 

All too soon, it was time to leave the beach but we are already looking forwards to the next Fossil Festival. I will leave you with a view of Lyme seafront and the huge festival marquee. See you there next year?

 

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The Lyme Regis Fossil Festival really does get bigger and better each year! There was not enough room to swing a geological hammer in the marquee today- there must have been thousands of people visiting the festival, and there will be more tomorrow. We have seen a selection of specimens brought in for identification, mainly local ammonites, as we expected. Luckily we also had several Dorset ammonite experts on our stand.

 

The live satellite link to the Museum's Attenborough Studio could not have gone better. Everything worked as it should have, but it was so cold on the beach that I suspect the Nature Live audience could hear my teeth chattering! Thanks to Natalie and Lee 'on location' and to the team in the studio.

 

As we were about to sit down to a home-cooked curry (thanks Val), we were rudely interrupted by the ceiling collapsing, so I am writing this on a slightly dusty laptop. We still haven't had our curry!

 

Do come down to the festival if you can. We're there until 5 pm on Sunday 6th May.

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What intriguing finds will the team of Natural History Museum scientists be asked to identify at this year's Lyme Regis Fossil Festival over May bank holiday weekend, 4 - 6 May? I asked the team of palaeontologists who are today getting ready to go (we have a regular presence at this popular annual event).

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Lyme Regis Fossil Festival 2012 highlights: the parade and lots of Natural History Museum displays and activities.

'It's mainly the Dorset ammonites that I am expecting to see,' our vertebrates curator Lorna Steel told me. 'But people do bring in all sorts of things from all sorts of places. The last time I went, someone handed me a badger skull... and someone else had a load of ichthyosaur bones that their granddad had found in a pile of rubble while working as a builder - they'd kept them in their loft for decades!'

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Over the next few days our scientists will be setting up their stalls in the festival's Grand Marquee fossil fair (below left) ready to meet the public and talk to them about fossil collecting.

 

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As well as hoping to discover Lower Jurassic ammonites or ichthyosaur fossil specimens, the Museum palaeontologists will be inviting festival-goers to assemble and take apart a Baryonyx skull replica and sift sand from Kent for shark teeth. There are other Museum offerings too, including gold panning, a dino dig activity led by some of our Learning Department, and talks about meteorites, whale carcass communities and corals.

 

A presentation of The What on Earth? Wallbook of Natural History timeline will be a fun attraction this year, with specimen highlights from our scientists. This Museum book is a unique guide to the history of life on Earth.

 

The Fossil Festival is just as much about music and arts as it is about fossil collecting and rockpool rambling on the beaches, where Mary Anning once walked. Have a look at the official fossil festival website programme to choose from activities as diverse as the Travelling Pliosaur Cinema, stonebalancing and carving, and a fossil time machine.

 

The theme for the 2012 Lyme Regis Fossil Festival is Discovering Earth. The event organisers are emphasising  how vital fossil collecting is today, particularly for climate change research:

 

'Paleoclimatologists studying both fossil finds and the coast itself learn new things about not only the ancient seas and the creatures that swam there, but also the way our oceans and marine life might respond in future as our climate changes. This evidence of how past life forms reacted to changing temperatures and conditions in the past helps to tell us what we might need to be prepared for.'

 

There are still important fossils and rocks being discovered on this historic Jurassic coastline - most recently a large pliosaur skull and a new species of crocodile.

 

If you can't make it to Dorset over the bank holiday weekend and are visiting the Museum, drop in to our talks with live-video-links to the Museum team at the festival. Fossil hunters: Live from Lyme Regis is on Saturday (12.30 and 14.30) and Seashore Search: live from Lyme Regis beach is on Sunday (12.30 and 14.30). Some of our scientists at the festival will also be posting live in our new Palaeontology news blog.

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The Museum has several huge ichthyosaurs on show in its Fossil Marine Reptiles gallery. One is the largest and most complete of its kind and was discovered by the 19th-century fossil-hunter Mary Anning in Lyme Regis.

Undoubtedly, we have amazing fossils in our galleries from the tiniest to the gigantic. I'd recommend Fossil Marine Reptiles, Fossils from Britain and the Red Zone's Earth Lab where you can use resources to help identify your own British rocks and fossils.

 

Lyme Regis Fossil Festival website

 

Paleontology department news

 

More fossil information

 

Find out more about fantastic fossils and ammonites on our Kids only website

Get some tips on fossil hunting

Discover all about fossils online

Watch the Baryonyx video and follow the story of this unusual British dinosaur

Explore dinosaurs and other extinct aquatic animals like ichtyhosaurs

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Lyme Regis Fossil Festival starts this Friday 4 May so, no, we are not there quite yet, but preparations are now well underway (at least, I hope they are!); in fact today we will practice assembling the Baryonyx model we will be taking along in the safety of the Palaeontology Building. We all have plenty of experience of flat-packed furniture, so we should be OK, as long as all the bits are in the box.

 

I will soon be rounding up scientific literature which will help me to identify the finds that will be coming my way all weekend, courtesy of the fossil-mad public that will be thronging to our Fossil Roadshow. I won't be alone though; I will have Noel Morris and Martin Munt on hand for the inevitable fossil molluscs (I usually recognise them, but can't think of their names!) and Jerry Hooker to identify any mammal remains, whether fossil or recently deceased (a few years ago someone brought in a badger skull!).

 

No doubt other colleagues will be flitting in and out, dispensing knowledge as required. Do come and see us in the marquee on the sea front - we will have lots of fun activities, includiing the ever-popular sieving for fossil shark teeth - you get to keep your finds too! There will be lots of other organisations and traders with trinkets to suit every pocket.

 

I'm hoping to catch up with some of my friends on a fossil hunting trip too. Now I must go, but I will be blogging from the Festival over the weekend, and someone from our team (me perhaps?) will be linking live to the Museum's Attenborough studio for Nature Live. Check out the events for the 5 May and 6 May for more on that, and search online for 'Lyme Regis Fossil Festival' to find out more about what's going on this weekend!

 

West+of+Lyme (Custom).jpgLooking for fossils on the Jurassic Coast near Lyme Regis

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Mary Anning remains one of the most famous characters in the history of Palaeontology. This year marks the 200th anniversary of the discovery of the specimen that started her career. To mark this anniversary this specimen—comprising the skull and some post cranial elements of Temnodontosaurus platydon—has been loaned to the Lyme Regis Museum. The specimen was the first discovery of a complete Ichthyosaur and was made by Mary Anning and her brother Joseph in 1811 in the 205 million year old Jurassic Blue Lias from cliffs nearby. Now after 200 years the gigantic skull has returned to Lyme Regis to the museum built on the site of Mary’s childhood home, on loan from The Natural History Museum (London).


Soon after it was found in the Anning family sold the ichthyosaur to Henry Hoste Henley of Colway Manor in Lyme for £23. From there it was sent to London, probably by sea where it was exhibited at William Bullock’s Museum of Natural Curiosities. In 1819 the specimen was purchased by the British Museum (at the time the British Museum was made up of what is now the Natural History Museum, the current British Museum and the British Library).  It is in the Natural History Museum that it is normally exhibited alongside a host of other marine reptile remains. The skull’s return to Lyme Regis for the first time in 200 years was overseen by Palaeontology staff Drs Martin Munt and Tim Ewin.

 

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Martin Munt, Tim Ewin, Chris Andrews and Paddy Howe


Carrying the heavy, two metre-long specimen up the curved staircase to the geology gallery at Lyme Regis Museum proved to be too difficult. So with concern for the specimen’s safety, not to mention the backs of the local geologists including Paddy Howe and Chris Andrews who had turned out to help with the installation, the decision was taken to place the specimen in the Social History Gallery on the Ground Floor. where it will be on display until the end of September 2011. The loan has been made possible due to a grant of £1,000 from Natural England and the financial support of The Natural History Museum.


As Dr Martin Munt noted “it has been a privilege to help Lyme Regis Museum achieve their dream of bringing home this iconic fossil specimen to mark the 200th anniversary of its discovery. This loan has been the outcome of over a year’s planning and was supported by former Director of Science Dr Richard Lane, Keeper of Palaeontology Prof. Norm MacLeod, with technical assistance provided by the Head of the Palaeontology Conservation Unit, Chris Collins.”