30 December 2019 | Story Thabo Kessah | Photo Thabo Kessah
Gavin Dollman
Gavin Dollman is involved in virtual prospecting for fossils using a drone.

Gavin Dollman is one of the young researchers selected for the international research programme funded through the US-SA Higher Education Network. This prestigious programme is aimed at giving PhD candidates and their supervisors the opportunity to regularly travel to the USA and spend time at participating US universities where their co-promoters will be based.

“The University Staff Doctoral Programme (USDP) has allowed me to bring my idea of collaborative science to fruition. It’s an exciting opportunity,” Dollman said.

Dollman added that his PhD studies would focus on the machine and deep learning for prospecting for palaeontology. He is studying with the Appalachian State University. Other participating universities are Montana and Colorado State.

He has also had the privilege to work alongside a team of Geologists and Paleontologists from the universities of Birmingham, Zurich and Oxford in a project under the auspices of the University of the Witwatersrand’s Evolution Studies Institute (ESI) on a site in rural Eastern Cape.

“My role within this massive project is to perform a detailed survey of the sites and the surrounding area for later analysis. I used a drone known as the DJI Phantom 3 Pro with which I took hundreds of pictures that were later put together to create a detailed map,” he said.

“The maps allowed for virtual prospecting by the team and will in the long term serve as the basis for a predictive fossil model for the area.”

Dollman is a lecturer in the Department of Computer Science and Informatics on the Qwaqwa Campus.

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