What we do:

Paleobiology is the study of the evolutionary and ecological history of life. In other words, we use fossils to develop and test biological hypotheses. The discipline typically involves more use of hypothesis-testing and analytical (quantitative) methods than traditional paleontology (the study of fossils), but it's just as much fun. Our facilities in this laboratory allow a wide range of paleontological, paleobiological, and biological research, although we usualy focus on invertebrate animals (especially snails and clams!).

On the field and fossil side, we have a range of field equipment (rock hammers, chisels, and other fun tools requiring hard hats and eye protection!) and cabinets to store the fossils we collect. (Check here for pictures of past fieldtrips!) We also borrow specimens from The Field Museum in nearby Chicago and our own amazing Jurica-Suchy Nature Museum.

On the analytical side, our facilities are primarily focused on methods for measuring the traits of specimens. The lab functions primarily in two interrelated capacities.  The “input” capacity involves capturing digital images of specimens using specialized cameras, lenses, and filters. We also have a dissecting microscope to view specimens. When dealing with typically small fossils, these photographic techniques are called photomacrography, and many researchers here use the lab simply to acquire high resolution images of their specimens. We also have the ability to make high-definition movies and slow-motion video capture.

The “output” capacity involves measuring these images to extract data, a practice called morphometrics.  It is an amazingly general class of research.  For example, CAT scans conducted in medical centers rely on morphometrics procedures to visualize internal anatomy.  Morphometrics can also be used for more seemingly mundane procedures, such as figuring out how the shape of an animal has changed during a period of time.  For most paleobiological research, morphometrics involves measuring the length of various parts of organisms, and then using this data to draw conclusions about how organisms grow, how particular morphologies function, or to study the morphological evolution of fossil animals.

Where to find us:

We are located in room 107 of Birck Hall. Stop by anytime!

Click here to access tutorials and examples of student research using the DIMPL.

If you are interested in touring the lab or conducting research in the lab, please contact Dr. Phil Novack-Gottshall, pnovack-gottshall_at_ben.edu

The lab is equipped with the following equipment:


 Useful resources:



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PaleoDIMPL: Paleobiology & Digital Imaging, Morphometrics & Photomacrography Lab

Biological Sciences Department and College of Science

Biological Sciences and College of Science faculty

Benedictine U niversity