Saturday, November 5, 2016

SVP 2016

My first SVP last year was a fun time, but this year's (which took place in Salt Lake City) may have been even better. The star attraction, as everyone has likely already seen on social media by now, was a mount of Daspletosaurus holding an undescribed small ceratopsid in its jaws.

What of the presentations? My favorites this year include (in order of delivery):
-Elizabeth Jones's historical perspective on the field of molecular paleontology
-Mike Habib's talk on terrestrial takeoff in theropods
-Mikayla Struble's talk on the biomechanics of raptorial feet
-Daniel Ksepka's talk on penguin origins (killing off almost all extant penguins in a hypothetical nuclear war was very memorable)
-Justin Lemberg's talk on Tiktaalik feeding mechanics
-Daniel Field's talk on avian biogeography and the evolution of flight
-Haley O'Brien's talk on artiodactyl brain cooling as a prerequisite for foregut fermentation (this one quite possibly ranks among at least my top three favorite talks of this year; I was glad it ended up winning the Romer Prize)
-Victoria Arbour's talk on the evolution of tail weaponry
-Keegan Melstrom's talk on convergent evolution of herbivory in crocodyliforms (which reminded me of the same phenomenon in theropods)
-James Clark giving Alan Turner's talk on neosuchian phylogeny (with the presenter notes visible on-screen, many laughs were had)
-Tatsuya Hirasawa's talk on the origin of the mammalian diaphragm
-Corwin Sullivan's talk on the evolution of uncinate processes in archosaurs
-Casey Holliday's talk on the function of the supratemporal fenestra
-Tom Kaye's talk on Anchiornis soft tissues revealed by laser fluorescence
-Luke Muscutt's talk on plesiosaur swimming mechanics
-Shuo Wang's talk on the ontogeny of Limusaurus
-Jonah Choiniere's talk on two new alvarezsaurs!
-Thomas Holtz and Alex Dececchi's talks on cursorial adaptations in theropods (which were given back-to-back and complemented each other well)

The poster hall felt more packed than at last year's venue, so I wasn't able to talk in-depth with as many presenters as I'd have liked. However, the two posters that I worked on were both well received.

One of my posters, the one I actually presented myself, was based on my undergraduate senior thesis (the real one, not the April Fools' version). For my thesis, I looked for correlations between the diversity of non-hypercarnivorous theropods and ecological factors (e.g.: the diversity of other herbivorous vertebrates) through time and space. I recovered some interesting preliminary results, but, unfortunately, a recent paper strongly criticizes the residuals method that I used to account for sampling bias, so if I ever get the opportunity to revisit my work, I will certainly be rerunning the analysis using different methods. Thanks to everyone who stopped by, including David Button, Khai Button, Brian Engh, Christopher Hendrickx, Robert Katz, David Marjanović, Eric Morschhauser, Henry Tsai, Nathan Van Vranken, Lindsay Zanno, and more, many of whom offered helpful feedback. (Apologies if I didn't mention you by name, but, even if I had a perfect memory and was able to recall every last individual who visited, we'd be here all day! Please know that your attention and interest were appreciated regardless.)
A highly shrunk-down copy of my SVP poster.

The other poster I worked on was a collaboration between Meig Dickson, José Cortés, Austin Deans, Hayley Orlowski, Henry Thomas, Joan Turmelle, Jack Wood, Rebecca Groom, and myself, in which we surveyed the demographics of the paleo-blogging community on Tumblr and assessed the effectiveness of Tumblr as a tool for scientific communication. Considering the project was spearheaded by Meig, I'll leave it up to her to explain the results of our study*, but I'm personally quite pleased with how everything turned out. Meig and Austin (who I met in person for the first time at the conference) were the ones who presented the poster, whereas I only dropped by intermittently throughout the session to check on things. As far as I could tell, there was a great deal of interest and curiosity in our work!
The presentation of the PaleoTumblr poster, featuring Meig Dickson (Kulindadromeus), Austin Deans (Machairasaurus), myself (Albertonykus), Blaire Voss (Allosaurus), and Tristan Stock (Leaellynasaura).

*Edit: Meig has done a write-up of our findings here!

Unlike last year, I was unable to make any time to visit local attractions near the conference venue, but I did attend the SVP welcome reception at the Natural History Museum of Utah. Photos to come.


  1. I think the ontogeny of *Limusaurus* is one of the most utterly bizarre things to have come out of SVP this year, in a strictly dinosaurian sense.

    There's been plenty of really cool things shown at SVP that make me excited for the future, really. *ESPECIALLY* the talk related to the Antarctic dromaeosaur foot; that sounds incredibly interesting.

  2. Is there a bigger version of your SVP poster? I'd very much like to read it if possible.