Dino Science Club

December 2018

Professor Hutchinson introduces the DAWNDINOS  ‘Afterschool Dino Club’ to students at Onslow St Audrey’s School in Hatfield.

The DAWNDINOS team is exploring the exciting world of early dinosaurs with students from Onslow School at a special ‘Afterschool Dino Club’ starting Wednesday 14th November.

Excitement is growing as Prof Hutchinson gave an enthusiastic talk to Year 10 and Year 11 students at their assembly today. He introduced the club and gave a taster of what to expect.

Prof John Hutchinson talking to Year 10 and Year 11 students at Onslow School

From about 230 to 66 million years ago, dinosaurs roamed the earth and were among the most successful group of vertebrate animals ever to walk on the planet.  So why were dinosaurs so successful and why did they become so dominant across the Triassic-Jurassic boundary?

Over five weeks Professor Hutchinson and his team of researchers will look at life in the Triassic period, mass extinctions and ecosystems. Students will have the opportunity to learn about evolutionary diversification and adaptation, species that are under threat of extinction and climate change. There will be lots of fun activities too including an introduction to the anatomy of dinosaurs, how they moved and the opportunity to play with 3D printed dinosaur bones to figure out how their joints worked!

The DAWNDINOS team will explain how cutting-edge techniques are used in their research and have revolutionised the study of animal biomechanics and locomotion. They will explain 3D digital modelling and how the data from the living relatives of Triassic crocodiles and dinosaurs will help estimate muscle function and movement in these extinct animals.  Students will have the chance to play with computer software and flesh out skeletons of dinosaurs!

Students will also see how these world-leading experts have started to develop computer simulations to estimate how different species of extinct archosaurs – the group of animals that includes crocodiles, birds, their relatives and dinosaurs – might have moved!

If you are a student at Onslow school COME ALONG! These sessions are not to be missed. (They are for budding scientists and dinosaur enthusiasts alike!)

Watch this space as this site will be updated regularly with  weekly news about Dino Club!


DAWNDINOS first afterschool Dino Club at Onslow St Audrey’s School, Hatfield was a huge success!

Professor John Hutchinson kicked off the first Dino Club last week with an introduction to the dawn of the dinosaurs. He talked about Triassic-Jurassic biodiversity and mass extinctions and students were given an insight into what life was like in these eras.

Students using the paleobiodb.org  website

Students determined how groups of archosaurs (dinosaurs and kin) and synapsids (mammals + kin) changed from the Triassic period to the Jurassic period. Using the Paleobiology Database they plotted Triassic-Jurassic archosaur vs. synapsid diversity over time.

Students sorted photo cards of animals living in England approx. 2000 years ago



Students then turned to the Anthropocene to see which British mammals had gone extinct and why. They sorted photo cards of animals living in England around 2,000 years ago to determine which still remain and which are extinct (extirpated) here.


The hour-long session flew by and finished with a short quiz to summarise what students had learned. There were 2 lucky winners who received DAWNDINOS prizes and everyone that attended got a DAWNDINOS key ring and sticker!

This  week (Wed 21st Nov) we have another exciting Dino Club in store! Dr Krijn Michel will be exploring dinosaur anatomy and students will measure 3D printed archosaur bones and bones from living animals to look at ratios of bone segments to determine what kind of animal they are from.

Onslow students be sure to come along, the club starts at 3.30pm (until 4.30pm).       A fun time is to  be had by all!  Don’t forget…. everyone that attends gets a free DAWNDINOS key ring!


DAWNDINOS Dino Club Update!

Dr Krijn Michel shows students 3D printed bones at Dino Club anatomy session

At Dino Club last week students at Onslow St Audrey’s School in Hatfield were given an introduction to human and other animal anatomy by Dr Krijn Michel, a postdoctoral researcher from the DAWNDINOS team.

They learned about basic limb bones and their structure and then carried out a couple of fun activities. First they were given an assortment of real forelimb and hindlimb bones and had to identify and reassemble the limb bones (mainly humerus & radius/ulna and femur & tibia) with  aid from generic anatomical sketches.

In the second activity students were given 3D printed hindlimb bones from living and extinct archosaurs. They measured femur and tibia bone lengths with calipers, and using the bone length ratios they had to identify if that species of  archosaur was more cursorial or graviportal. This is similar to what paleontologists do in the real world and students had a great time!

This week (Wed 28th NovemberDr Andrew Cuff and Dr Peter Bishop will introduce students to how palaeontologists infer posture and gait in extinct animals, focusing on interpreting the function of joints based on their shapes and the actions and leverage of muscles.

Onslow students: there will be lots of hands-on activities, a quiz with great prizes….. and don’t forget: everyone that attends gets a free DAWNDINOS key ring!


DAWNDINOS Dino Club explores how paleontologists infer movement in extinct animals

Dr Andrew Cuff explains how changing the moment arm of the biceps muscle can make lifting objects easier

At another awesome afterschool Dino Club last week, students at Onslow St Audrey’s School explored how archosaurs moved.

Dr Bishop and Dr Cuff (postdoctoral researchers working on the DAWNDINOS project) explained how different archosaur joints articulated in different species and how this may have related to how they moved.

Students examined 3D printed fossil specimens, as well as the bones of modern birds and crocodilians, to see how the bones are connected and how different joints have different ranges of mobility. They had fun looking at bone models (archosaur and human) and examining muscle scarring on the 3D printed and real bones. Students also learned how muscles work in lever systems and did muscle leverage exercises with the human arm model and the bucket lift challenge.

Dino Club continues this week on Wednesday 5th December when students will be looking at how to reconstruct whole archosaurs digitally and determine the location of the centre of mass.

There will be heaps of fun with computers and science.

Onslow students: Come along and prepare to be amazed!

Digital Archosaurs at Dino Club!

A great time was had by all at Dino Club last week when students were introduced to modern-day approaches to bringing fossil species ‘back to life’ using digital techniques of data capture and modelling using ImageJ software. The students did a digital calculation of the centre of mass of a variety of basic shapes. Then they looked at how to reconstruct whole archosaurs and digitally flesh out archosaur skeletons and determine the location of the centre of mass.  Students could modify their reconstructions to see the effects of body shape on COM location.

This week (Wednesday 12th December) Professor John Hutchinson and Dr Peter Bishop will be hosting the last Dino Club session. Students will be introduced to the biomechanical modelling software OpenSim and use it to simulate movement and the forces occurring within the body in digital models of two archosaurs: Batrachotomus and Coelophysis. The challenge is simple: find a way for these archosaurs to remain balanced on their feet!

Key ring 1

Onslow students: This will be a fun, hands-on session and no one goes away empty- handed! There will be DAWNDINOS key rings for everyone – Be sure to come along to get yours!

Digital Modelling: The final challenge!

Fun was had by all at the last Dino Club of 2018!

Students used OpenSim software to simulate movement and the forces occurring within the body in digital models of two archosaurs: Batrachotomus and Coelophysis.
The challenge: Find a way for these archosaurs to remain balanced on their feet!

Students were given either an OpenSim model of Coelophysis (theropod) or Batrachotomus (rauisuchian) and had to find a posture that enabled them to remain stable without falling over.

Using the software they could visualise the location of the centre of mass and manipulate joint angles, then test the viability of the posture using forward dynamic simulations. Students had a great time with this and most were able to find a viable posture. The key thing they found out was that centre of mass has a crucial role in influencing leg posture which in turn holds the body in a stable position.

Video (below) of a successful Batrachotomus simulation.

………………… Sadly this was the last Dino Club for this season, but watch this space as we hope to be back same time, same place in 2019!