The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

May 8, 2013

VIDEO: Teacher, student partner up on project that pairs ancient bones with technology

PITTSBURG, Kan. — Jason Ward never thought he would have a 150 million-year-old fossilized allosaurus arm bone on his desk. Or a vertebra from a plesiosaur.

But his small, unassuming, second-floor office at Pittsburg State University has been turned into a paleontology lab of the most futuristic kind.

The assistant professor in graphics and imaging technology has been working with a Carl Junction, Mo., fossil collector on a project that uses seemingly space-age technology to capture, manipulate, archive and share — even reverse engineer — objects that have been around since the Mesozoic Era.

And they’re gaining the attention of scientists nationwide.

“Bones may never have to leave a museum again,” said Sean McCartney, Ward’s student. “What we’re doing has so many different kinds of applications, it will totally crack open paleontology.”

McCartney, 50, has been a fossil hunter for 30 years and amassed quite a collection at his Carl Junction home. From the 1970s through the 1990s, he worked with the likes of noted paleontologists Robert Bakker and Jack Horner.

A native of Wichita, McCartney holds a degree in archaeology from Wichita State University, and he studied geology and paleontology at the Colorado School of the Mines and the University of Colorado at Boulder. At those institutions, he was a member of field teams recording Indian petroglyphs, mapping abandoned 19th century mine shafts and excavating Jurassic dinosaurs in Colorado’s Morrison Formation.

He was the founder and vice president of the Wichita Paleontological Society, and he was instrumental in establishing joint field excavation programs between the society and both the Sternberg Museum in Hays and the Dallas Paleontological Society.

Life changed, however, and he most recently worked as a general contractor in Florida.

In 2007, he returned to the area to live in Carl Junction. He enrolled at PSU in 2010 to earn a federal certification in a type of 3-D technology known as building information modeling that is now required in his line of work.

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