Digitalisation project for Scotland’s Fossil Grove

20 May 2019

Scotland’s carboniferous trees are preserved for future generations

Scotland’s Fossil Grove consists of eleven tree stumps dated at 330 million years old. Originally part of a full grove, the site was preserved when a river diverted its flow and flooded the site.

The site itself is noteworthy for another reason – not only is it an example of an extremely rare geological event, but it is also one of the best examples we have of Victorian preservation work.

The site was originally discovered in 1887, during the excavation of the original quarry to make room for Victoria Park.

The Victorians quickly recognised the importance of the site, and covered it with the building which is still in place today.

Recently, Historic Environment Scotland and Glasgow City Council have been working together to revamp the park – including the Fossil Grove.

This has led to Historic Environment Scotland taking laser scanners to create a full 3D rendering of the site.

Sarah Hamilton said: “In terms of the development of the recent Sketchfab model, as well as being a fantastic tool for interpretation, the new digital model is going to be of huge value to our scientific work at Fossil Grove, as it’s allowing us to access even more detailed base information to create a risk map of the surface condition, which will help inform conservation efforts and site management.”

Photograph: Margaret Banford

Sophia Mirashrafi, who worked extensively on the project, said: “The 3D model is such an excellent way to just manipulate it and kind of explore it.”

The data itself is mostly worked on by computers – those computers can be used to create renderings and laserscan maps of the surrounding area.

One area that Mirashrafi is particularly interested in is the ways that she can use her work to further the preservation efforts.

The building which covers the site is the original Victorian building, and work is being done to preserve that structure along with the site it holds.

Hamilton said: “Water penetration into the Victorian building that houses the fossils has caused discolouration and decay to some of the fossil exhibits.

“We have undertaken 3D laser scanning and mineralogical analysis to help gain a better understanding of the site and its problems.”

This flooding has been having detrimental effects on both the site itself and the building that houses it.

Efforts have been made to change this, and the digitalisation project is being used as a means of tracking the damage more effectively. The maps are so detailed as to show the lines of salinity on the floor.

The team hope that they can use their scans to create videos and maps to show the effects the flooding is having.

These maps and videos will be used to gain extra support from both individuals and organisations in a position to support the restoration and continued preservation of the site.

Mirashrafi said: “What’s happening is water is coming from somewhere. It kind of fills up these pools and they’re monitoring it to see if they’re affecting the stone and the trees themselves.

“We can take this kind of evidence, show people maybe something needs to happen; there needs to be funding to help kind of protect them.”

The 3D images in particular are going to be very useful for conservation over a long period of time.

Hamilton said: “The ongoing investigation work at Fossil Grove aims to advise on measures to arrest the current decay and stabilise conditions for the long-term preservation of the fossils.”

There are many plans for the future of the site in the years to come. The council wants to try and display the fossils, along with the other displays in the park, more effectively.

The current approach to scanning the fossils is part of an initiative which was launched in 2014.

Late last year, the process of finding out what people wanted from the park through what they called a “Place-making” exercise began. This all ties into continued conservation efforts.

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