I am ANDREA ‘TRACEMAKER’ BAUCON
WELCOME TO MY HOMEPAGE!
I study the behaviour of ancient animals through their fossil burrows, tracks, and trails.
The fossilized products of these interactions, known as ichnofossils or trace fossils, offer us the only direct glimpse into the behaviours of ancient animals. From trilobite burrows to dinosaur tracks, these traces unravel the mysteries of how these long-gone creatures moved, dwelled, and sought food. But the intrigue doesn’t stop there. I apply ichnology to answer some of science’s most compelling questions: How did ancient animals behave? What was their habitat like? And the ultimate question – does life exist beyond our own planet?
Through the lens of ichnofossils, I journey back in time, reconstructing landscapes of the past and understanding the environmental conditions that shaped them, from climate to water table levels. This journey of exploration and discovery through ichnofossils provides a profound understanding of Earth’s history, offering valuable insights into how and why organisms have changed over geologic time.
My approach to this fundamental question is through the study of ichnofossils, which I hypothesize to be universal indicators of life. Acting as documents of biological behaviour, ichnofossils serve as biosignatures that record the existence of life, irrespective of the size, shape, or biochemistry of the lifeforms that created them. This unique characteristic makes them invaluable in the quest for life beyond Earth, as it enables the detection of life forms that may greatly differ from those known to us.
I discovered this inspiring insight through the systematic study of da Vinci’s Notebooks, which positions Leonardo as the founding father of palaeontology. This discovery has spurred my journey along this path of continuity, bridging science and humanism.
My body of work encompasses a range of research topics within the realm of palaeontology. This portfolio showcases a selection of my palaeontological studies, with a feature that allows you to filter my work according to the research subject. Enjoy exploring the geological wonders I have been fortunate enough to study!
I developed a new approach to depict – in a single web-like picture! – the past 500 million years of life-substrate interactions. Each ichnofossil is represented as a circle (or node), and those found in the same geological unit are connected by a link. Just like social networks are made up of people connected by friendship relations, the resulting ‘fossil network’ is made by ichnofossils connected by co-occurrence relationships. It’s all about connections and relationships, be it in our social lives or in the world of palaeontology!
I rely on modern burrows for inspiring and testing theories and models about ichnofossils. The present is key to the past! Observing modern ecosystems allows me to determine accurately spatial distribution, association patterns and environmental significance of traces.
As an enthusiastic believer in the power of knowledge dissemination, I place great emphasis on science communication. I firmly hold that the value of scientific discoveries is intrinsically linked to their communication, making it an indispensable part of my professional pursuits. With this in mind, I continually strive to bridge the gap between palaeontological research and the wider community, transforming intricate scientific concepts into understandable and engaging narratives. In my view, this is a crucial step in ensuring that the fruits of palaeontological research are not confined to academic circles, but are accessible and beneficial to all.
As a passionate creator, I am dedicated to the design and development of video content with a primary focus on the field of palaeontology. My videos, which span across various formats such as documentaries and YouTube, utilize a storytelling technique that invites viewers on a voyage of discovery through deep time. A notable instance of this approach can be seen in the documentary I crafted for the Geopaleontological Museum of Castell’Arquato, which centres on the fossil dolphin found near Montezago. However, my creativity isn’t confined to traditional methods. At times, I forgo the standard narrative technique and venture into experimental territories. An exemplary venture into this unconventional territory is my project ‘Geodelia’. In this undertaking, I developed geological visuals that captivated the audience from over 130+ countries at the Boom Festival, one of Europe’s largest music festivals. This is a testament to my ability to create visually stimulating content that transcends the typical conventions of theatrical cinema, offering a fresh and immersive experience to viewers.
In this video I present the astrobiological potential of ichnofossils.
I am committed to improving geoscience education through the design and development of geoscience exhibits. My passion and profession have been intertwined in the creation of captivating and educational geoscience exhibits for institutions worldwide, from the UNESCO Geopark Naturtejo, Portugal, to the Natural History Museum of Piacenza, Italy. As a curator, media provider, and developer, I channel my expertise into the creation of exhibits that are as informative as they are fascinating. From immersive interactive kiosks to cutting-edge paleoenvironmental reconstructions, my work seeks to create a bridge between the scientific community and the general public.
I realize interactive installations for bringing palaeontology to the general public and promoting geological heritage. To this aim, I develop software for controlling multimedia content with RGBD cameras. The software eliminates the need for controllers, allowing visitors to engage with extinct animals on screen using just their body movements. A notable example of this can be seen at the Pramollo exhibit in Pontebba, Italy, where visitors have the opportunity to interact with over 20 different Palaeozoic animals, including trilobites, temnospondyl amphibians, sea scorpions, and Meganeura-like griffinflies. My innovative approach to interactive installations has also been showcased at the Natural History Museum of Lesvos. Here, visitors can experience a virtual kayak ride across the Tejo river in Portugal, or even mimic the feeding habits of a trilobite!
As a palaeontologist, my research involves unearthing the stories hidden within fossils to understand the physico-chemical and biological attributes of ancient environments. This knowledge serves as a foundation for my efforts to visually represent these bygone landscapes, translating complex scientific data into accessible and engaging artwork for the general public. One of the notable instances where my work has been showcased is at the Dinoexpo in Castelo Branco, Portugal. Here, my illustrations served as the engaging backdrop for the stunning dinosaur skeletons on display. Such illustrations are grounded in scientific data, bringing a tangible dimension to fossil remains that can help the public better grasp their significance and context.
Passionate about broadening the reach of palaeontological discoveries, I dedicate a portion of my work to public engagement and outreach. This commitment has led me to cooperate with media professionals, striving to translate complex palaeontological findings into comprehensible knowledge for the broader audience. My research has been featured in renowned publications such as Scientific American, National Geographic, and Nature, highlighting my contributions to the field of geology. Additionally, my expertise has been sought for documentaries produced by esteemed networks like Sky and Mediaset, and I’ve also had the privilege of participating in newscasts on Rai.
My passion for palaeontology transforms into engaging and accessible talks for those who are unfamiliar with this field. I believe in the power of shared experiences, especially when it comes to bringing the magic of fossils to life – an aspect of science that often remains hidden between the lines of textbooks. For me, science outreach is more than just a pursuit – it’s a rewarding adventure that brings fun, knowledge, and most importantly, much-needed awareness about palaeontology to a broader audience.
As a palaeontologist with a particular focus on ichnology, I am eager to connect with people and institutions for professional engagement and intellectual exchanges. Feel free to contact me!
I have embraced various social media platforms as a means to spread the magic of palaeontology. These platforms, I believe, are the digital bridges that connect us, fostering a shared passion and curiosity about our planet’s ancient past. You can keep up with my latest research, fieldwork experiences, and other palaeontological activities by following me on Instagram, Twitter/X, YouTube and Facebook. I regularly share updates about my work, post interesting facts and insights about palaeontology, and engage in discussions about the latest trends and discoveries in the field.
I am happy to engage in discussions about my passion – palaeontology!
Feel free to drop me a line at my email address.