Wednesday, 24 October 2012

SVP 2012 - A Great Conference!

So the annual SVP (Society of Vertebrate Paleontology) meeting is over for another year – and what an excellent meeting it has turned out to be. Every meeting has its plus and minus points but I don’t think I know of a meeting in recent times which has met with such universal acclaim. And it appears that I am far from being alone since everybody I have spoken to about it has agreed. Indeed, there has not been one dissenting voice – not that I am aware of anyway.
I arrived in Raleigh a little later than intended and unfortunately missed out on the previously mentioned Witmer talk, “Fleshing Out the Past… 3D!” but this was generally well received by those that attended and, I am told, enjoyed by the general public which is always important for the science of palaeontology.
However, I did attend more or less all of the important events over the following four days. And these really were full days since no sooner had you finished one day then you were getting up bright and early to start the next one. I was staying at one of the SVP affiliate hotels, the Clarion, a brisk fifteen minute walk to the Raleigh Convention Center which was connected to the Marriott City Center hotel – the base for much of the SVP membership.
The Raleigh Convention Center
The overall set up was impressive. There were plenty of signs to direct you to where you needed to go and once around the circuit was all you needed to familiarise yourself with the layout. The bottom floor was the hub of all operations. Here could be found the registration desk, various SVP related tables and a superb display from the different exhibitors which included the Black Hills Institute who had a magnificent cast of Gorgosaurus libratus on display, Triebold Paleontology, who were displaying a superb skull cast of the pliosaur Megalocephalosaurus and Research Casting International, who were displaying a wonderful cast of juvenile tyrannosaurid Jane (BMRP2002.4.1). Both the pliosaur and tyrannosaurid skulls were kindly donated toward the SVP Annual Benefit & Social Auction.
The display from Paleotools and the SVP Preparator’s table were right next to each other which was excellent for us preparators that were in attendance. At the back of the hall were the poster boards and these were large and plentiful. There was a reasonable amount of standing room in between the posters and the poster sessions were always lively and enjoyable affairs. A conveniently placed seating area was located at the front of the hall which was always popular and seldom empty.
Three stories up were the three session halls – ballrooms A, B and C. In reality these were one massive hall but the partitions were so effective and virtually soundproof that you would not know it – only the sound of applause would filter through to you as a technical talk ended. There were the usual minor issues with the visual display aids not always working fluidly and sometimes breaking up an author’s talk as they struggled to change frame or get a video to run but these did not take anything away from the talks at all. There were plenty of seats for all and these were fairly comfortable and set out well.
Check out the Acrocanthosaurus in the window!
Special events included the welcome reception held at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. This was extremely well attended and we were well looked after. The museum is a superb example of how a modern museum should be set out with lots of state-of-the-art interactive displays designed to engage the visiting public of all ages. I found the preparation laboratory set up of particular interest and spent quite a while examining the skull of Acrocanthosaurus atokensis of which I was one of many.
The SVP live and silent auctions took place on the Friday night and were again well attended. The auctions were held in ballroom B and there was plenty of room for all except in the scrimmage to get final bids in during the silent auction! This year’s fancy dress theme for the auctioneers was the Avengers and they all looked splendid in their costumes and they ran the live auction with huge enthusiasm and took part in some great interaction with the audience.
Brent Breithaupt in his element!
Particular highlights included Andy Farke’s winning bid for a snazzy Holtz-inspired dinosaur waistcoat (which does actually suit you Andy!), Larry Witmer’s superb tussle with Phil Currie for the cast skull of juvenile tyrannosaurid Jane and a wonderfully entertaining bidding war between veterans Brent Breithaupt and David Varricchio. Phil Currie did gain some compensation by outbidding me for a cast of a T.rex arm – I was a little miffed since Phil has loads of tyrannosaurs at his disposal! But it was all for a good cause so well done Phil!
I gained a little compensation in the silent auction by successfully bidding for a copy of Jack Horner’s Prosaurolophus monograph – a superb paper and really what I was looking for as I enlarge my library dedicated to hadrosaur cranial morphology and also to help with identifying some indeterminate hadrosaur material.  
The silent auction on progress
The final evening saw the awards banquet and after hours party. No doubt you will have heard and seen many of the reviews and references that have been all over the social media network during the last few days. Suffice to say that the awards banquet was a great occasion and made enjoyable by sharing a table with likes of John Hutchinson, Andy Farke, Stephen Gatesy, Robert Kambic, Peter Falkingham, Ryan Carney, Frank Varriale and Anthony Maltese.
The after hour’s party was great fun and everyone was happy to let their hair down after four days of presentations and functions. Everyone got into the spirit of things and it was a great way to finish the week. I have not included everything that went on during the week but I am sure it all went off well with equal success.
For me, I learnt an awful lot and I was glad to catch up with colleagues whom I had not seen for a while. It was also the opportunity to make new friendships and I have been touched by the amount of time and advice given by various people along the way – so thank you to you all. In particular I am grateful to Jeff Liston, Yasemin Tulu, Hanneke Meijer, Stephen Brusatte, Thomas Carr, Nina Sverdlova, Stu Pond, Mike Triebold and particularly Anthony Maltese who was very generous with his time in both discussion and at a social level – it really was very much appreciated.
So coming up – a multitude of posts regarding some of the content from this year’s conference of which some will have already been mentioned, some that won’t and a selection of goodies somewhere in between. It really has been a great conference and everyone is already looking forward to Los Angeles next year.
Megalocephalosaurus courtesy of Triebold Paleontology


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