Thursday, December 8, 2022

SVP 2022

In-person conferences?! What are those? After two years of online conferencing, this year's SVP convened in Toronto, Canada (while still maintaining a parallel virtual platform). Right off the bat, the conference organizers should be commended for establishing a masking mandate: though some attendees reported testing positive for COVID-19 during and after the event, this policy appears to have been largely effective in limiting the spread of the virus.

I certainly had a great time. The welcome reception this year was held at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), which I was excited to visit as I'd never been there before. The first to greet us at the museum was a mounted cast of the titanosaur Futalognkosaurus.

Dinosaur-wise, one of the star attractions of the ROM is the holotype specimen of Parasaurolophus.

However, the skull displayed with the Parasaurolophus holotype is a cast. To see the original skull, one has to visit the museum collections. I managed to join a behind-the-scenes tour where we got to do just that!

Parasaurolophus is not the only one here. The ROM houses holotype specimens of many hadrosaurids.

The museum is not bad when it comes to extant dinosaurs either, for it has quite a nice exhibit of taxidermied birds. This potoo caught my eye.

I'm not really a stranger to presenting at SVP anymore, but seeing some of my labmates present their first in-person SVP talks was pretty special. The last time SVP happened in person, my supervisor and one of my labmates were the only other members of our lab to attend. This time, members of the lab gave nearly half of the talks in the bird session (and our supervisor didn't even come this year)! Speaking of which, the bird talks took place on the afternoon of the last day of the conference, and my talk was one of the last talks in the session, so I'm very grateful to everyone who stuck around to attend it. I won't lie: I've grown a bit weary of presenting on my PhD research at this point, and I'm looking forward to having something fresh to talk about the next time SVP rolls around. However, the feedback I received was all very positive. Most unexpected were the comments from a young fan who came up afterward to tell me that my comics helped inspire their interest in paleontology! That's a treasured memory I won't be forgetting for a long time.

As always, there were numerous fascinating presentations at SVP. I was especially excited to see Chris Torres's talk on a nearly complete skull of Vegavis. However, perhaps the most surprising breakout stars were small(-ish) ornithischians: I thought Cary Woodruff's talk on pachycephalosaur vertebrae, Clint Boyd's talk on a new specimen of Thescelosaurus, and Zakaria Hannebaum's talk on the taphonomy of Orodromeus were all extremely interesting.

The return to in-person conferencing meant seeing friends I hadn't seen in person for a long time (or even ever). My friend John D'Angelo took the chance to show me an illustration he'd made in celebration of me passing my PhD viva. He'd sent me a scan of it before, but getting to see the original was a real treat.

One friend who I'd known online but had never met up with before was Ilari Pätilä, a paleoartist and fellow fossil bird enthusiast. To commemorate the occasion, he presented me with his wonderful depiction of an adzebill.

It was also a pleasure to meet the mysterious artist known mostly as "StygimolochSpinifer" or "Perpetualartistsblock" for the first time. I've long been a fan of his artwork, and we ended up having some great conversations. He even gifted me with one of his sketches after I completed my talk!

I had some time to kill on the day after the conference ended, so I spent the morning visiting the nearby Ripley's Aquarium of Canada with Darren Naish. Darren took many more photos than I did, but below is a picture I got of a peacock mantis shrimp. Most memorable to me were probably the lampreys; I don't remember having seen any live specimens before. Afterward, Darren and I went for a walk on the Toronto waterfront in search of urban wildlife. I particularly appreciated seeing long-tailed ducks, though we also spotted double-crested cormorants, black-capped chickadees, and other North American species that I've missed very much.

What more can I say? SVP was great, and I hope to see everyone again next year!

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