An Open Exploration in how Paleontology and Paleobiology can benefit from Digital Technologies and Methods
Panel discussants: William Riedel, Stefan Bengtson, Roy Plotnick, Bruce Runnegar

Q&A Highlights

Question: What was the state of the earth during the pre-Cambrian?

Answer: Bruce Runnegar responded that there were four billion years of earth history leading up the Cambrian exposion. The environment was characterized by a dimmer sun, and almost no terrestrial vegetation. Erosion happened faster, because there was nothing to protect the surface of the land.

The oceans were only inhabited by microorganisms and algae, and the depths were most likely empty. There was less oxygen in the air and in the water. Mountain building was happening as usual, and huge amounts of sediment were still being carried into the ocean.

Question: How do we find new fossil sites?

Answer:The paleontologists confessed that we have little understanding of how some fossils survived. The Burgess Shale was fortunately a protected shelter beneath a cliff. In general, a lot of directed effort is going towards the locating of new sites, based on geological knowledge.

Question: How possible is the total modelling of a cell in software? (Bruce Damer)

Answer: This lead to a discussion by Richard Gordon of the Cyberworm project, a scheme to model in four dimensions the nematode.

Those interested in helping out with simulating the nematodes can contact Dick at

Question: How do we connect the evolutionary dots?

Answer: Despite the gaps in the fossil record, we can attempt to help modellers by listing the characteristics of the creatures' common ancestors.

Question: How do paleontologists get funded in the 21st Century?

Answer: You can generate interest in the computer world and genereate money for paleontological research by dealing with the hard parts in theoretical biology that revolve around complete systems and the ability to store huge amounts of information in a small space.

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