Tuesday, June 11, 2019

ProgPal 2019

This year's ProgPal was held in the Lapworth Museum at the University of Birmingham. It's a small museum, but there are gems to be found. The most eye-catching item on display, however, is this cast of the Allosaurus specimen "Big Al".

"Big Al" was made particularly famous by a BBC documentary that also highlighted the many injuries preserved in this specimen. Here is an infected toe, which the documentary portrayed as having ultimately led to "Big Al"'s death.

The tree of life depicted in museum specimens. It's an appealing setup, though bats are incorrectly shown as being more closely related to primates and rodents than to pangolins.

In my few years of experience, ProgPal has always been a nice, relaxed conference for early-career researchers, and this year was no exception. It's surreal to me that among the delegates of ProgPal this year, I can probably now be considered relatively far along in terms of my career progression. Several individuals I'd met at previous ProgPals have since graduated or become too entangled in the final stages of their PhD research to come. Nonetheless, there were still a fair few friends and acquaintances around for me to catch up with, and I had a good time meeting many of the new faces, some of whom recognized me from the talk I gave at TetZooCon last year!

As usual, I will list off a personal highlights reel... though to be honest, I've met enough people now to feel somewhat guilty about not including the presentations of everyone I know (even with my colleagues from the same institution already excluded a priori). I suppose it should be clear that these are the presentations I found especially interesting or outstanding, as essentially every presentation I saw at ProgPal was enjoyable.
  • Emily Brown's talk on the endocranial anatomy of Proterosuchus
  • As with PalAss last year, the foraminiferan talks were surprisingly engaging, with special mention to Caitlin Lebel and Bridget Warren's presentations
  • Alessandro Chiarenza's talk on the Late Cretaceous distribution of sauropods
  • Richie Howard's talk on a sessile Cambrian worm
As for me, I gave an updated account of my work on the phylogeny of Strisores, which I've been presenting at conferences for over a year now. I hope that by the next time I mention that research on my blog, I will have submitted it as a manuscript!

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