Good tidings and well-wishes!
As promised, I’ve uploaded several of my photos and videos from this year’s annual Western Association of Vertebrate Paleontologists meeting. Along with Dr. Hungerbuehler and myself, fellow students Donny Price and Miles Miller came along for the ride, as well as Reg Tempelmeyer (an old friend of the museum who’s been preparing fossils and digging for us for the better part of a decade). A grand time was had by all, and you can bet that I’ll be attending next year (and hopefully giving a talk and/or poster about my work with Redondasauruswith Dr. Hungerbuehler).
We began with a tour of the paleo prep-lab at Petrified forest National Park in Arizona, delivered by none other than Dr. Jeff Martz of Paleo Errata fame and Dr. Bill Parker of Chinleana. Dr. Martz showed off his most impressive specimens and current projects (the display table filled with phytosaur skulls literally made Dr. Hungerbuehler’s eyes bug out!), but I was asked to refrain from posting them here, so I’ll honor that request. After our stop there, Dr. Parker took us around on a geologically-biased tour of the rest of the park, including one locality particularly fossiliferous locality which was literally covered in petrified wood chunks.
Wood wasn’t the only thing we found, however. Reg’s eagle-sharp eyes spotted a pair of phytosaur teeth, and later on the tour, many of us found pieces of scutes and other bone fragments. Dr. Parker advised us to be on the lookout for a shovel handle, as this allegedly marked the location for an un-recovered Vancleavea specimen. Alas, our searching efforts were in vain, but that didn’t prevent us from taking in the almost surreal beauty which is the painted desert.
Later on, we visited the park’s paleontology museum, in which all of us took an immediate and avid interest.
The museum contains one of the original Revueltosaurus casts as well (we also saw a fleshed-out reconstruction done by Matt Brown which sported a pair of taxidermist cat-like eyes, but again, I’ve been asked not to post it).
After the museum tour, we diverged for a few hours to rest. I spent a few hours trying to photograph a raven (having been inspired by Bernd Heinrich’s book), but it would appear that their reputation for heightened intelligence has been well-earned, as the bloody thing kept flying out of my shot just as I was about to snap a picture. A few hours later, the group of paleontologists met up at the local college for refreshments and to compare notes/specimens (we brought along a few of our new-found aetosaur plates, including a ventral scute for the inspection of the resident authorities). Donny, Miles, and I were completely psyched to be meeting so many paleontologists from such a variety of disciplines and quickly gained notoriety as the ‘paleo-paparazzi’.
The next day, everyone met up at the park’s auditorium for presentations. Dr. Hungerbuehler represented M.C.C. by delivering a talk about the archosaurian remains from our new Triassic site in the Redonda formation of Eastern New Mexico. For some reason, my name (along with Donny’s, Miles’, and Reg’s) were attatched to the absrtact, but I’m certainly not complaining! Other interesting talks given included (but are by no means limited to):
-Dr. David Elliot of Northern Arizona University described early Devonian heterostracans from the Western U.S.
-Dr. Holroyd from the UCMP discussed the turtles of Alberta’s Hell Creek park and showed interesting fluctuations in the population of various species through the latest Cretaceous, which was probably due to temperature variations. As an avid chelonian fan, I listened to the talk with great delight.
-Dr. David Smith of Northland Pioneer College discussed herbivory in theropods and specifically maniraptorans. He expanded on the idea that herbivory in these animals (primarily therizinosaurs, oviraptorsaurs, and ornithomimosaurs, all of which are almost universally agreed to have been at least largely-herbivorous), to quote from his abstract, “represents the ancestral condition for maniraptorans, but was later reversed in more derived clades, such as dromaeosaurs.” He made a very strong case, the implications of which are quite intriguing.
-Dr. David Gillette of the Museum of Northern Arizona described the anatomy, functional morphology, and mounting of the institution’s Nothronychus.
-Dr. Jeb Bevers reviewed the Miocene fauna of the Milk Creek formation and revealed the remains of what is likely the formation’s first lagomorph.
-Dr. Eric Scott of the San Bernardino County museum in Redlands, California gave a very passionate discussion as to why paleontology and molecular biology should be treated not as rivals but as “complementary tools”. He cited the shortcomings of research into the latter field with regards to horse and bison evolution and urged practitioners of both areas to increase their contacts with each other.
-A host of lectures were given by the staff of the Page Museum in Los Angeles: Dr. Christopher Shaw spoke about a massive, though under-researched, tar pit site similar to the famed La Brea tar pits but potentially several times more fossiliferous! Dr. Ryan Long discussed rarely-encountered bones at Rancho La Brea (such as feline clavicles), and Mrs. Andrea Thomer highlighted a new 3-D data visualization system currently being utilized at the site.
After the talks, most of us got together to share an enjoyable meal at a local Italian restaraunt (it’s amazing that we got the reservation, considering the facts that there were around forty of us and it was Valentine’s day). The next day, the MCC gang departed for the New Mexico Museum of Nature and Science, but that’s an entirely different story altogether…(Don’t worry, I’ll post videos and pictures of that adventure as well)
May the fossil record continue to enchant us all!