Progressive Palaeontology 2015


Dear All…

It’s been yet another long while. I put this down to having a thesis to write (and what a thesis!), and conferences, and travelling, and all those other things that I’ve been complaining about for a long time and will continue to do so … blah blah blah yacketty yacketty.

But this isn’t a piece to complain about that. This is about seeing the other side of the conference hand, and fully appreciating the stupendous hard work that others have put in to make these great.

Earlier this month, the University of Bristol Palaeobiology Research Group (to give us our full title) hosted Progressive Palaeontology 2015. This is a student-led conference that attempts to offer a relaxed space for current students to present what they’re working on, from any area of palaeontology. After making the, what I subsequently found to be, foolish offer to build the information and abstract booklet, I was roped into the committee alongside Joe Keating (the leader), JJ Hill, Chris Rogers (second-in-command), Mark Puttick, Luke Parry, Max Stockdale, Al Tanner, and Fiona Walker.

We had over 90 people register for the conference, from many institutions, and four countries. The 26 talks and 24 posters covered various topics from Triassic tetrapods to alteration of melanin and fossil colour, muscles in Psittacosaurus to Mesozoic mammal ecology. All talks were excellently given, and showed a huge variety of topics and methodology; great promise in these progressives.

The conference photograph  taken by David Marshall.
The conference photograph taken by David Marshall.

After the conference, we had an excellent dinner, and held an auction to benefit future travel grants for ProgPal. This was overseen by the inimitable David Button, Esq., who admirably raised the roof, and the price, of artwork, mugs, and slabs of rock; we made over £700 in total, a monument to the generosity of those who were there.

The next day, on the field trip, we visited three excellent localities near Bristol and along the Welsh Marches. With the inimitable David Button, Esq., looking resplendent in his guise as union chief, we took in the Triassic–Jurassic boundary at Aust, finding small fragments that had fallen down the cliffs from the Rhaetian Bone Bed. Next, we went onto the Silurian inlier at Usk to capture various brachiopods, bivalves, and even some trilobite fragments. However, the best find of the day was found after the excellent pie-pub lunch at The Crown Inn. At a Devonian locality in Crasswall, which produced many jawless fish fragments, the very lucky Dave Marshall found a shoulder plate from a large eurypterid; this made Dave a very happy bunny.

So that wraps up a little on what happened over the conference. Besides having the fun of being at the conference, as I have before, it was also enlightening to see how much work goes into the preparation of such. While editing, and chasing after, so many abstracts is not the easiest of jobs, I don’t envy those who had to deal with rooms and catering and stuff.

Progressive Palaeontology is organised with the help of the Palaeontological Association, and funding for this year also came from the Geological Society of London. Prizes were donated by Cambridge University Press and Siri Scientific Press, and Bob Nicholls, Luis Rey, and Mark Witton. Additionally, the Paleontological Society and Society of Vertebrate Paleontology donated money towards travel grants. You can find more information about this year, past years, and the next years (when it comes up) at the ProgPal website.

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