The goal of the Digital Atlas of Ancient Life project is to provide a free resource to help individuals identify and better understand fossil species from particular regions and time intervals. In this respect, each Digital Atlas is akin to the types of field guides that naturalists might use to identify bird or plant species. Four Digital Atlases have already been developed or are under active construction:
- Cretaceous Atlas of Ancient Life: Western Interior Seaway
- Digital Atlas of Ordovician Life: Exploring the Fauna of the Cincinnati Region
- Neogene Atlas of Ancient Life: Southeastern United States
- Pennsylvanian Atlas of Ancient Life: Midcontinent United States
The data underlying each Digital Atlas are derived from specimens in museum collections that have been “digitized.”
One aspect of digitization involves converting written descriptions of fossil localities associated with specimens (e.g., “found 4 miles north of Miller’s Crossing”) into precise latitude-longitude values that can be “pin-pointed” on maps using geographic information systems (GIS). This process is called georeferencing. Another aspect of digitization is to capture digital images of fossil specimens and share these with the public. This digitization effort will allow researchers to ask new questions of old data. For example, it will now become possible to track how species geographic ranges changed over time in response to environmental changes.
TCN Projects Supporting the Digital Atlas of Ancient Life
Two “Thematic Collections Networks” (TCNs)–funded by the National Science Foundation’s Advancing Digitization of Biological Collections (ADBC) program and organized by Integrated Digitized Biocollections (iDigBio)–have or are continuing to provide digitized data in support of the Digital Atlas Project:
The Cretaceous World: Digitizing Fossils to Reconstruct Evolving Ecosystems in the Western Interior Seaway
Digitizing Fossils to Enable New Syntheses in Biogeography – Creating a PALEONICHES-TCN
Use of Materials from this Webpage
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
If you use content from this website or the individual Digital Atlases in a publication, please cite our overview paper in Palaeontologia Electronica:
Hendricks, J. R., Stigall, A. L., and Lieberman, B. S. 2015. The Digital Atlas of Ancient Life: delivering information on paleontology and biogeography via the web. Palaeontologia Electronica, Article 18.2.3E.
Project Management and Funding
The Digital Atlas of Ancient Life project is supported by the National Science Foundation (DBI 1206757, DBI 1206769, DBI 1206750, and DBI-1645520).