Meet the real Dinosaur Hunter

Written By
Aimee Feldman

Move over Jurassic Park’s Dr Alan Grant, we’ve got the real thing right here at Queensland Museum. Our very own dinosaur hunter, Dr. Scott.

Dr Scott Hocknull is the senior curator of geosciences and vertebrate palaeontologist at the Queensland Museum. Which means he hunts for dinosaurs and other ancient creatures that used to call Queensland home, millions of years ago. Like a detective searching a crime scene, Scott scours the location, excavates the fossils, records and studies these prehistoric remains.

Dr. Scott’s interest in dinosaurs started at a young age.  At 12 years old, he was volunteering in the palaeontology and geology department right here at Queensland Museum.  At 16 years old, he authored his first research paper.  At the young age of 22, he landed his dream job, becoming a curator of palaeontology and geology for Queensland Museum.

He’s been a fossil hunter for over 30 years and has found thousands of specimens, and not just of dinosaurs. Dr. Scott has found and studied fossils from all sorts of extinct life, from Australia’s largest dinosaurs, to megafauna and even the microscopic remains of ancient rainforest species.

Oh, and he’s won a few awards too. Dr. Scott has been recognised as one of Queensland’s top thinkers and has won national awards for his impressive discoveries and in science communication and research.  Among other honours, in 2002 Scott was also awarded Young Australian of the Year.

He has also authored a few childrens’ books in between all his fossil finding.

The fossils Dr. Scott has discovered span 250 million years. From dinosaurs that lived 245 to 66 million years ago in the Mesozoic Era to megafauna from the Cenozoic Era dating back to 41,000 years ago. These discoveries include fossils of a giant wombat-like marsupial called Diprotodon, a giant freshwater crocodile, the giant goanna Megalania and a marsupial ‘lion’ called Thylacoleo. The discovery has been invaluable because very little is known about the megafauna from tropical northern Australia, especially answering questions about their extinction.

In 2009 he and colleagues scientifically described and named three new species of Australian dinosaur near Winton in Queensland. And most recently, in June 2021, he and colleagues described and named the biggest dinosaur that has ever lived in Australia. In fact the largest land-dwelling animal ever found in Australia.

But Dr. Scott hasn’t stopped there. He has been bringing dinosaurs and megafauna to ‘life’, digitising his research for almost 12 years. 3D scanning, printing and animation has come a long way since then.

3D surface scans can tell us a lot about skeletons before we dig them up. Drones and aerial photography have improved the collection methods for researchers. Significant progress has also been made with photogrammetry – a technology of converting overlapping 2D photographs into 3D digital models. Combining this information with X-ray images, allows Dr. Scott to study these fossils, inside and out! Imagine using x-ray vision to look inside a dinosaur bone!

The best part is, you can delve deeper into Dr. Scott’s research and digital discoveries at World Science Festival Brisbane, with two fascinating sessions.

A quick trip into pop culture shows you just how fascinating dinosaurs are – The Land before Time, Walking with Dinosaurs, Night at the Museum, The Good Dinosaur, Dinosaur Island, King Kong and of course, Jurassic Park and Jurassic World.  While Jurassic Park is just fantasy, we’ve got something better – the real deal.

Join Queensland Museum’s Senior Curator of Palaeontology Dr Scott Hocknull, and fellow experts as they discuss the new ground-breaking palaeontological tools.

Digitising our Ancient Dinosaurs: Museums in the 21st Century, 2pm Saturday 12 March 2022

Palaeontology Reimagined, 10.30am Sunday 13 March 2022

Tickets start from $18

Supported by Project DIG, a partnership between Queensland Museum Network, BHP and BMA.

Written By
Aimee Feldman


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