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Archive for the ‘conference’ Category

Germany commemorated the 150th anniversary of Archaoepteryx with a 10-Euro silver coin, shown here on the WitmerLab cast of the Berlin specimen.

What a remarkable 150th birthday year it’s been for Archaeopteryx! Sesquicentennial celebrations, commemorative coins and stamps, historical articles, and special exhibits would have been enough, but Archaeopteryx made headlines when a prominent study in the venerable British journal Nature announced that it might not be a bird after all. That study was rebutted by another prominent study, which was in turn rebutted at a prominent conference. If that weren’t enough, an entirely new specimen of Archaeopteryx—only the 11th ever discovered—was announced. Let’s have a closer look at this very eventful year.
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In Part 1 of this series, we explored why a research lab should take time away from their normal scholarly activities to engage the public. This post, Part 2, will look at the mechanisms the WitmerLab has used to share our research findings and approaches beyond the specialist scientific community. We participate in four basic, often-overlapping arenas: the web, the science news media, broadcast media, and in-person engagements.

Television documentaries provide wide exposure for our research. Filming at O'Bleness Memorial Hospital, Athens, OH, with Heather Rockhold (right) for an upcoming Discovery Channel documentary with Philip Currie (center). Photo by Joy Miller Upton (OBMH).

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Not many research labs have an actual mission statement, but we kinda came up with one when we first launched our Facebook page: “WitmerLab: 21st century approaches to fleshing out the past. — Our mission is to use the structure of extinct and modern-day animals to interpret evolutionary history…and to share that history with the broader community.” This is the first of a two-part post devoted to the last part of that statement. Here we look at why we jumped into the public arena, and the next post will explore what we’ve been doing. We recently returned from the annual meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology where we presented a poster entitled “Promoting a culture of outreach within an active university research lab setting: WitmerLab at Ohio University,” as part of the SVP Education & Outreach special poster session, and so the topic is fresh.

WitmerLab poster for the 2010 SVP Education and Outreach poster session. Larger JPG: http://bit.ly/bsTqvB . PDF: http://bit.ly/95fHSc .

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Casey Holliday measuring ostrich bones (2001).

A project that got its start way back in WitmerLab’s Triassic Period finally came to fruition, thanks to the professionalism and perseverance of lead author Casey Holliday. Today, in the freely available, open-access online journal PLoS ONE, we published an article (Holliday et al. 2010) on the caps of cartilage (known as epiphyses) that form the articulations between the long bones of dinosaurs and their modern-day archosaurian relatives (birds and crocs). For a long time, paleontologists had looked at the ends of dinosaur bones like the femur or humerus and suspected that something might be missing. The bones’ ends looked poorly formed, almost too simple, or were covered with a rough pattern of bumps and grooves. The logical conclusion was that many of these bones must have been covered with pretty significant amounts of cartilage.
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In the USA, “Congress” is almost a dirty word. But for many scientists around the world, one congress is a treasure. The International Congress of Vertebrate Morphology is a special event, allowing scientists to get together for a week or so and revel in the structure, function, and evolution of backboned animals. For many of us, ICVM is our favorite conference. It’s typically pretty intimate (300-500 attendees). It’s held every 3-4 years and has been in diverse locales: Giessen (1983), Vienna (1986), Antwerp (1989), Chicago (1994), Bristol (1997), Jena (2001), Boca Raton (2004), Paris (2007), and, most recently, 26-31 July 2010, in Punta del Este, Uruguay. We’re all looking forward to Barcelona in 2013!

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