Software development

Members of ICAL use a number of computational approaches to studying past life.

Dr Bill Sellers actively develops GaitSym; now on release 3.0. This software is a forward dynamic modelling program. What that means is that you specify the forces and the program uses Newton's Laws to calculate the movements. It uses the Open Dynamics Engine physics library to do most of the hard work ( and provides a file format and display system so the user does not have to do any programming.

Dr Russell Garwood, has developed a number of evolutionary simulation packages, with collaborators including Dr Mark Sutton (Imperial), and Drs Chris Knight and Robert Sansom (Manchester). REvoSim is an individual-based model that allows evolution to be simulated over palaeontological timescales with large population sizes, on a standard PC. It includes concepts such as recombination and space, and provides an in-silico system to interrogate relationships between, for example, mutation rate and population size. TREvoSim focusses on generating character data and trees for evolutionary studies within a phylogenetic context. Dr Garwood also coded parts of, and helps maintain, the SPIERS software suite for tomographic reconstruction. These packages have been released through the Palaeoware software organisation.

Dr David Hodgetts, who collaborates with ICAL on the laser and photogrammetry-based mapping of geological field sites. To facilitate this, he has developed software called VRGS (Virtual Reality Geological Studio) that allows the processing, interpretation and modelling of lidar and other digital outcrop data types. VRGS is available to the academic community and is currently being used by a number oil companies and international universities.


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