A journey back in time to discover the exceptional geological heritage of the Pyrenees

More than seventy million years ago, a titanosaur weighing around fourteen tonnes — Abditosaururs kuehnei — moved slowly across the Cretaceous landscapes that would later make up the Pyrenees on the European continent.
Geological heritage:- More than seventy million years ago, a titanosaur weighing around fourteen tonnes — Abditosaururs kuehnei — moved slowly across the Cretaceous landscapes that would later make up the Pyrenees on the European continent. [Pixabay]
Geological heritage:- More than seventy million years ago, a titanosaur weighing around fourteen tonnes — Abditosaururs kuehnei — moved slowly across the Cretaceous landscapes that would later make up the Pyrenees on the European continent. [Pixabay]

Geological heritage:- More than seventy million years ago, a titanosaur weighing around fourteen tonnes — Abditosaururs kuehnei — moved slowly across the Cretaceous landscapes that would later make up the Pyrenees on the European continent. At a site in Pallars Jussà, the remains of one of the last dinosaurs to disappear from the planet, Pararhabdodon isonensis, which had a prominent bony crest on its head and lived in what are now the Pyrenees some 66 million years ago, have also been discovered.

Fossils of now extinct species, rock outcrops and exceptional geological structures are just some of the testimonies of the geological wealth that the Pyrenees treasure, a territory radically transformed by profound tectonic, climatic and environmental changes that have left their indelible mark on nature and the geological record.

All this natural heritage, unique in the peninsular area, will be accessible to the general public thanks to the VIGEOCULT project, an initiative led by the University of Barcelona, to create a natural and open museum using new virtual and augmented reality technologies on 4D geological reconstructions. This methodology will be applied to the geological evolution of the last 550 million years of the history of planet Earth recorded in the Pyrenees.

The VIGEOCULT project is led by Professor Josep Antoni Muñoz, and counts on the contributions of experts Eduard Roca, Oriol Ferrer, Òscar Gratacós, Gonzalo Rivas, Pablo Santolaria and Eloi Carola, from the UB’s Faculty of Earth Sciences, the Geodynamics and Basin Analysis Group and the UB GEOMODELS Research Institute. It is funded by NextGenerationEU / PRTR funds from the European Union, and has the participation of the Geoparc Orígens Association, the Institut Català de Paleontologia Miquel Crusafont (ICP) and the company RECURSIVA S.L.

Connecting with the richness of geological and cultural heritage

The museum idea aims to provide an emotional experience to the general public based on the understanding of geological and palaeontological systems, as well as their impact on the landscape, human activity and history. In this way, it aims to enrich the public’s experience of geological, palaeontological and cultural content.

“Understanding the Earth’s evolutionary process through the different climate cycles, and the processes of mass biological extinctions and dramatic landscape changes that have resulted, will help to foster a vision of environmental sustainability among the public. This awareness will be reinforced by the reconstruction of the possible future scenarios we face with the current climate trend”, says Josep Antoni Muñoz, from the Department of Earth and Ocean Dynamics.

“We want to strengthen the human connection with the Earth through the efficient interpretation of its geological heritage and the dissemination through different offers related to geotourism in the Pyrenees”, adds the expert.

Virtual reality and digital cinema to discover the Pyrenees’ past

VIGEOCULT will become an open museum experience in the Origins Geopark, recognised as a UNESCO Global Geopark with a richness and diversity of internationally recognised palaeontological sites and geological and cultural heritage.

“As part of the project, we will combine rigorous, state-of-the-art geological and palaeontological reconstructions with the latest technologies in virtual reality and digital cinema production to turn these simulations into spectacular images with great didactic and informative potential”, the team explains.

“Virtual scenes will be generated to create digital products in documentary format — virtual reality or augmented reality — based on the reconstruction of geological, palaeontological or historical sites at different scales. The animation production will include the use of high-tech f/x visual software to generate visually powerful images and photorealistic animations”.

The process, technology and results will be at the level of high-end digital cinematography, and will allow for application on mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets and virtual reality glasses.

In line with the sustainable development goals of the United Nations 2030 Agenda, VIGEOCULT will create products that will give the public a better personal and emotional connection with the planet to understand the values of nature and territory, the geological history of the Earth and the knowledge of the history of our ancestors.

“Finally, our project also identifies with the territory’s need to identify, organise and use the values of the existing geological heritage as an engine for sustainable rural development, and will contribute to fostering scientific vocations in future generations and new highly qualified job opportunities linked to the territory”, the team concludes. AlphaGalileo/SP

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