Palaeontology Laboratories

The Palaeontology Laboratories are currently undergoing a c. £1,000,000 refurbishment to consolidate activities currently spread around the Wills Precinct. The new laboratory will have dedicated spaces and facilities for 3D visualisation of computed tomography (CT) data and finite element modelling, molecular palaeobiology, fossil (macro-) preparation and casting, histology and experimental strain recording, microfossil extraction and analysis. 

3D visualisation and modelling

We have a variety of hardware and software for reconstructing computed tomography (CT) data, and reconstructing finite element models, including:

  • 64-bit HP workstations employing between 16-96GB RAM
  • Avizo tomography reconstruction software
  • Hyperworks finite element mesh generation software
  • Abaqus finite element solver
  • 20TB+ RAID storage capacity with offsite mirroring

Molecular palaeobiology

A distinct laboratory for constructing libraries, gene cloning, in situ hybridization for molecular phylogenetics, molecular clock analyses and analysis of gene expression in development:

  • Thermal cycler
  • UV imager and recorder
  • Electrophoresis suite
  • Florescence microscopy (compound and stereomicroscopy)
  • Freshwater/marine aquarium for animal culture
  • Access to an Illumina Genome Analyser 2α
  • Refrigerated, shaker incubators, microfuges, centrifuges, water baths, heatblocks, autoclave, -80oC freezer, ice flaker, constant temperature rooms

Histology and experimental strain recording

We have facilities for the creation of thin sections of rocks, fossils, and the skeletal tissues of living organisms. We also equipped to conduct experimental strain and cutting experiments:

  • Buehler Isomet diamond-edged saw
  • Buehler grinder and polisher
  • c 5100 strain amplifier
  • Custom-built 'double guillotine' with displacement sensor and force transducer
  • Fridges and Freezers for storage of biological tissues


  • Acid digestion to recover calcium phosphate, silicate, and organic-walled microfossils
  • Microfossil processing facilities
  • Transmitted and incident light and petrological microscopy digital photography facilities
  • Access to School variable pressure Scanning Electron Microscope

Fossil preparation and casting

We have a dedicated fossil preparation laboratory equipped with:

  • Dust extracted cabinets for air-scribes & air-abrasives
  • Acid digestion for larger scale projects
  • Consolidation of sub fossil bone
  • Moulding and casting of both small and large fossils – vacuum chamber available

For further information, see The Bristol Dinosaur Project

Edit this page