2017 is finally over. Most of it felt like this. But a lot of excellent things happened as well, and I want to talk about them while I still have the chance to do it in the same year.
Society of Vertebrate Paleontology 2017
Naturally, my planned post for this never happened so this brief recap will have to do. If you want more extensive coverage of the posters and presentations, there are plenty of other blogs that took care of that.
After getting my feet wet at ISPH a month earlier, I decided to go straight off the conference deep end by heading to Calgary and meeting pretty much every vertebrate paleontologist currently working in the field. I was quite literally flying solo (sending regular updates to the paleo crew back home), and I guess I was kind of the lone ambassador for Drexel and the Academy this year. No pressure right?
It’s been fifteen years since I went to Canada, and immediately after a midnight landing in Toronto I was welcomed back with an unscheduled six-hour layover where I sat half-asleep, wholly dazed, and somewhat broken before the excruciatingly long journey over the entire country. When I finally arrived at the hotel, I had just enough time to drop my luggage off before kicking things off with the Paleo Education workshop hosted by the wonderful and eponymous Facebook group. And I went out for dinner that night with the workshop organizers at an Irish pub in the middle of downtown Calgary.
So just to make things clear: wake up > finish up last-minute obligations at the Academy > watch the solar eclipse > head straight to the airport > flight > overnight layover > flight > hotel > workshop > out on the town. With little to no sleep during that time at all. Believe it or not, an auspicious start.
I met up with old friends and met many new ones. It was great to finally catch up with the Palaeoblr crew in person, and I look forward to next year’s shenanigans, with or without the kazoos. (But preferably with.)
Albuquerque is next, and you bet I’ll be there, classes or expense be damned. If I present there they have to let me go, right? Right?
Or maybe if I talk about the Space Yam at length they’ll let me go just so I shut up about it.
I haven’t talked about it on the blog at length, but over the summer I was conducting paid undergraduate research in the Academy’s vertebrate paleontology and ichthyology collections – on Tiktaalik, of course, evolutionary superstar and our museum’s darling. The fossils themselves are back in Canada but when we have casts and CT scans waiting for their secrets to be uncovered, that’s no problem at all.
I’ll be presenting this research at NEGSA 2018 this March, so I won’t go into exceptional depth – but basically I was looking at CT data from the lower jaw of one of the lesser-known specimens in order to determine the orientation and sutures of the individual bones. The results have some potentially interesting implications, especially in the context of independent stem tetrapod research published earlier in the year…but more on that later.
Immediately after SVP, I presented this research at Drexel’s freshman research conference – their maximum poster size was way too small so I had to improvise and MacGyver myself a poster with pullout tabs, a Kindle, and a plushie Tiktaalik. Myself and a friend ended up winning a thousand dollars for our lab’s research, so that was pretty cool.
Over the next few months I’ll be polishing this data up for NEGSA – I might get a paper out of it, I might not. We’ll see what happens. There are a couple of other research topics of note that have caught my eye…
Resurrecting the deadAnd as the school year begun again, I started my new position in the Academy’s fossil prep lab. The job is simple: we have a bunch of sauropods, a few theropods, and a smattering of Stegosaurus toes from our field sites that were collected over the summer. We clean them up, and then we head back in 2018 to get the rest.
I suppose it’s a good time as any to note that during the spring/summer I will officially be under the wing of the BBPI, spending the field season in Montana and Wyoming freeing the dead from their stone tombs and bringing them back to life with air scribes and paintbrushes.
In one of those delightful moments where it all comes together, there was a presentation at SVP about one of our new field sites, which has some potentially novel implications for our work in Montana and back home at the lab. As always…we wait for the paper. But I am very excited for the future.
In some respects, the future has already crept up on me.
I was interviewed recently by a campus magazine about my work and research at the Academy. In it, I bring some old memories out to the surface. It was published earlier this month, and the piece has gained a startling amount of traction – it’s been making the rounds throughout the university circles, the museums, and even the vert paleo community at large.
I look back at what I’ve done so far, and forward at what the future holds, and despite all the shit that’s been going on – our national monuments are being threatened, hurricanes are only getting worse, all the snakes are about to die – I can’t help but be hopeful.
Rest assured, the best is yet to come.
See you next year.