Monday, July 16, 2018

IPC 2018

Last week I was away at the 5th International Palaeontological Congress (IPC) in Paris. IPC, which is held only once every four years, is the largest conference I've ever been to up to, attended by paleontologists of all subdisciplines. (In contrast, SVP, my second largest conference so far, is largely attended by vertebrate paleontologists.)

I suspect that if this had been my first paleontology conference, I would have been completely overwhelmed. Fortunately, I was somewhat surprised to find that I already knew a fair number of other attendees and I had a good time catching up with those who I hadn't seen in a while (more than a year in some cases).

I presented a poster on my ongoing research, similar in content to the talk I gave at ProgPal. If there was one downside of the conference, it's that there was no dedicated poster session. Instead, posters were set up at the beginning of the conference and left there for its duration. Though this provided ample time for attendees to check out the posters they were interested in, there were fewer chances for presenters to receive direct discussion and feedback.

Don't worry, I'm the author and am allowed to disrespect my own no-photography icon.

With up to eleven parallel talk sessions at any given time slot, trying to see all the talks one is interested in was next to impossible. Regardless, I was satisfied with the talks I ended up attending and managed to catch all my top-priority sessions (the bird session on the first day and the phylogenetics sessions on the second and fourth days).

A small selection of personal talk highlights:
  • Diego Pol's plenary lecture on sauropodomorph evolution
  • Luis Chiappe's talk on a new enantiornithine bonebed
  • Ross MacPhee's talk on the role of proteomics in paleontology
  • Isaac Casanovas-Vilar's talk on a new Miocene flying squirrel
  • Martin Sander's talk on the evolution of endothermy in plesiosaurs
  • Catherine Musinsky's talk on the origin of the mammalian fauces
  • Allison Hsiang's talk on developing models for morphological evolution in MrBayes
  • Matt Phillips's talk on tip-dating mammalian evolution
  • Dominic Evangelista's talk on cockroach evolution
  • Alessio Capobianco's talk on the phylogenetic affinities of marine osteoglossomorphs
  • Matt Friedman's talk on the internal cranial anatomy of Carboniferous-Permian actinopterygians
  • Leif Tapanila's talk on edestoid dentition
(As you might infer from the diversity of topics, there was a relatively small number of dinosaur talks! Birds were the only dinosaurs to get their own dedicated session.)

As it happens, this trip was also my first time in Paris (as well as in continental Europe, for that matter), and one couldn't very well visit Paris for the first time without doing some sightseeing. Typically, conference events are so packed that there is little opportunity to see much of the city they take place in, but IPC gave attendees a free third day of the conference to satisfy their travel cravings.

In my case, I started my morning by taking the Metro to the Louvre. After snapping a photograph of the iconic pyramid just so I could claim I've seen it, I departed.

The Seine River (well, a small stretch of it).

The Notre-Dame Cathedral.

For lunch I stopped by the café of Shakespeare and Company, an independent English-language bookstore. The bookstore itself is pictured below. Within it I found copies of several popular paleontology books including Tony Martin's The Evolution Underground and Steve Brusatte's The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs. (No pictures of them to show though; photography was not permitted inside the store.)

After lunch, I returned to the vicinity of the conference venue to meet up with my supervisor, Daniel Field, who was also accompanied by palynologist Antoine Bercovici, computational evolutionary paleobiologist Allison Hsiang, and paleohistologist Holly Woodward. Our main objective was to visit the galleries of the French National Museum of Natural History (Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle), which will require a separate blog post dedicated to it.

Following that, Antoine (as a local Parisian) generously guided us to some of the more underappreciated highlights of the city. One stop he took us to was an overlook at the National Museum of Modern Art (Musée National d'Art Moderne) that gave us excellent views of the rest of Paris.

For dinner I had this duck confit (recommended by Antoine). I can confirm that it was both filling and absolutely delicious. If I ever return to Paris, it will be for this. This, and ice cream.

The evening of the fourth day played host to our conference dinner, which took place on a cruise along the Seine. While lining up to get on the boat, some of us saw this mother mallard guide her ducklings to a patch of floating vegetation where they could feed.

The cruise was a good way to see many of the major landmarks in Paris, with the Eiffel Tower being our final destination.

By the time the boat dropped us off, the skies were dark, just the right moment to appreciate the tower's lights. From there attendees had to stumble (in some cases likely drunkenly) and navigate by public transport back to where they were staying.

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