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Colloquium Details

Computational Paleontology

Author:Kent Stevens University of Oregon
Date:January 24, 2013
Location:220 Deschutes


Computational studies are increasingly able to assist us in the reconstruction of the form, function, and behavior of extinct organisms, and to gradually displace the unsupported mythology that pervades not just the depictions in the popular media, but many supposedly scholarly accounts. Unlike most sciences in which direct observation can eventually corroborate or refute hypotheses, attempts to reconstruct some aspects of ancient life must necessarily remain speculative. Since the fossil record provides little direct evidence for how extinct animals carried out their lives (e.g., their habitual feeding and resting postures and their movements for locomotion and defense), much of how we envision them in life must necessarily be based on analogies with living forms. While there is no shortage of fervent speculation among some contributors to this field, there is a regrettable shortage of caution and methodology. Fortunately, advances in technology are revealing new traces of physical evidence that support conjectures based on conservative principles. In this talk I will survey how computer science can assist in the reconstruction and visualization of extinct behaviors.


Dr. Kent A. Stevens is Professor of Computer Science at the University of Oregon. His background reflects training in both engineering and science. From UCLA he received a bachelors in engineering and a masters in computer science, then from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology he earned a Ph.D., in visual perception research at the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. Computer graphics is his primary tool for scientific exploration, from visual stimuli for studying depth perception to skeletal kinematics.