Thursday, September 24, 2009

An American Paleoartist in...Bristol: Day 1 & 2

Because it's a PDF and I don't have a scanner that can make JPEG's, I can't actually show you the map of the meeting this year. You can find this map at the SVP website. I encourage you to look! Look and laugh and point and chuckle. It looks like such a short trip! Well, it's not. For the confused, SVP this year was held at the University of Bristol, but unlike SVP in Cleveland last year, it's not being held in one gigantic building. Last year, it was difficult enough running upstairs and downstairs between presentations. This year, you must run from one end of the campus to the other. Also--look hard for this--there's a building toward the upper-left corner of the map called the "Victoria Room." This is where the poster sessions are. What that unhelpful map does not include is topology. Bristol is not, as you might expect, flat, but rather mountainous. To further illustrate this point, I will encourage a certain analogy.

Imagine that my hotel, the Broad Quay, is at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. The university is at the top of the Matterhorn. To switch to a different analogy, imagine the university is in New Jersey, and the Victoria Room in Seattle. Thus, every morn I rise at the goddamn crack of dawn, put on my climbing gear, and begin scaling the peak that is Mt. Bristol. And because I don't drink coffee (and they don't have hot chocolate), I stuff my throat with horrible, horrible water in an attempt to re-hydrate. The secret is this: let's say you have a presentation in the Chemistry Building of 10:00 a.m. You also have one, in the other building (across campus), at 10:30. You basically miss the 10:15 presentation because you're spending that time hiking madly toward the Mills Building. That's how it works, and there ain't no gettin' around it. Also, and this is the best part, the lecture "halls" are the size of the average living room. At that size, every talk, including those dealing with the phylogeny of the Procolophonidae, become standing-room only. The distance between your seatback and the back of the seat in front of you is far less than an American airline coach seat.

And then you get to walk further uphill, and much farther away, for the poster sessions. Even these are horribly "organized:" A series of posters will occupy a very small space, arranged rows about two feet wide. All sense of personal space is lost, and shuffling is inevitable. Actually reading the posters themselves becomes secondary to avoiding bumping into other people. And poor authors have basically no room to talk to anybody, because there's a constant stream of other people trying to get by. I spoke with Bill Parker and...another guy...for a little while about two Silesaurus posters, and we were constantly shuffling around to let people through. There are three such poster rooms, all separated by hundreds of feet of hallway.
It's the worst SVP setup possible, really. This is the kind of thing somebody would have to actively work at to fuck up this badly. Tomorrow, I will have pictures of the daily trek(s) so that you can get a better sense as to what we're all going through on a daily basis. I've been told by a source who will remain nameless who was in charge of this year's horrendous layout, but I don't feel comfortable screaming it to the internets. What's worse, the talks this year aren't all that great (nothing mind-blowing), although I'm told that the always-reliable Jerry Harris had a hilarious "smashy-bird, melty-bone" talk involving a life restoration of a headless duck. I understand it generated insane amounts of laughter. I missed it, though: I was hiking back to the Chemistry building.


ReBecca Hunt-Foster said...

So, any good talks?

Zach said...

Can I talk about the talks? Oh, what the hell.

Loved Anchiornis, though everybody knows about it now. There was a great "preview" of an upcoming monograph of Simosuchus (SO AWESOME), and Scipionyx, too. That little compsognathid is a really incredible fossil, folks.

Amazing new "big-nosed" centrosaurine from...Utah, I think. It doesn't have a nasal horn or boss, it just has a very tall nose that rises above the orbits. Scott Sampson described three new chasmosaurine taxa, including two with spectacular frills (one has ten bigt "eyelash" horns over the parietal fenestrae). The focus of the talk was potential endemism in ceratopsids.

Dave Unwin described a wonderful Franken-pterosaur: it has the skull of a pterodacyloid but the body of a rhamphorynchoid. I thought it was interesting that he tossed those elements into phylogenetic analyses separately, and the skull turned out to be deeply nested in Pterodactyloidea, but the body came out as a sister group to Rhamphorhynchus!

Not a whole lot else mind-blowing. Mike Habib talked about his quadrupedal launch paper. I got to talk to him about it afterward.

The poster sessions were so painful I didn't really pay attention to them. A few stuck out, though, like a discussion of the osteoderms of Simosuchus and two phylogenetic analyses of Silesaurus (not an ornithischian...sigh).

But I had to leave early, as I'll discuss in today's post.

ReBecca Hunt-Foster said...

Cool. I think as long as you do not do an actual blog post on them most will not notice that we are talking about it here. It did look like the poster sessions were more painful that usual. Glad Scott finally talked about the new Utah ceratopsians. Did he tell the names yet? (yes or no works ;) )

Hope you had fun! Thanks for the blog updates!

Zach said...

No, he didn't name them. He only suggested their relationships. One is close to Chasmosaurus, and the other is close to Pentaceratops.

ReBecca Hunt-Foster said...

Ahh I guess we continue to wait for the paper(s)