Last year, my masters student Meg Walker completed a small project comparing bone histology in a modern and fossil wombat. We wanted to check whether wombat bone forms in a way that may relate to the burrow environment all the while being constrained biomechanically (because wombats have very powerful forelimbs that they use in digging their burrows). We found that the modern wombat shows evidence of bone remodelling and also some bone tissue types (such as coarse compact cancellous bone) that may facilitate quick wombat growth in the burrow and adaptation to mechanical load. These results are very preliminary because we only had a couple of specimens that we could examine, but in this new paper we use the data to build and discuss hypotheses that can be tested in the future. The paper should be out soon in Australian Mammalogy!
Meg and I discussing wombat bone histology. Image by Jack Fox.
One of the really important aspects of my current fellowship funded by the Australian Research Council is research training of biological anthropologists who are at early stages of their career. Given that my work is highly practical, the plan has always been to run introductory lab sessions in person to offer training in the preparation and analysis of thin sections. As the Coronavirus pandemic has grounded everyone at home, I decided to move the image analysis aspect of the training online. I also opened them up to the rest of the world, and to my surprise the response has been immense! The workshops reached capacity (300) within 5 days... I am super pleased that there is some interest out there in bone histology analysis.
My intention behind these workshops is to not only provide introductory training, but to also demonstrate that there should be no boundaries in trying methods that we are new to. So many times in my own career I have been told that some techniques are "too complicated", "too this".... "too that"... Surely, that slows down science progress as it turns us away from learning new methods? If, as part of my workshops, even 1 participant takes something away and applies it to their research, which will result in a new discovery... then we've moved things forward, even if it's just a bit!
I had to close registrations today, but if you are still interested in joining us over the next few weeks, please email me so that I can place you on a waiting list.