Allison’s Experience at the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology Conference

Allison here-

Every fall, the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (SVP) holds a conference. This year (2021) was the eighty-first conference, second online conference, and the second year I have attended. Although the membership of SVP has some overlap with the Geological Society of America, this conference is much more specialized – focusing only on vertebrates. Vertebrate focused education, preservation, and trace fossils (e.g. tracks, burrows, scat) are included along with research of specimens.

Due to issues with private collecting of fossils, SVP has strict ethics guidelines on specimens included in research. Fossils in private collections or currently for sale cannot be included in abstracts or presented research. Research specimens referred to must be “destined to be made available in full at the time of publication”.

I wanted to attend the SVP conference again so I could learn about cutting edge research, research methods, and attend virtual networking sessions. I presented my research as a poster last year but did not present this year. Hopefully, I will present research next year.

Online conferences make networking difficult, but SVP hosted zoom roundtable discussion sessions and daily coffee hours. These allowed for a casual networking atmosphere. The roundtable events were fresh and informative, focusing on issues such as mental health, LGBTQ+ scientists, disability, and  diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds.

I was part of a workshop entitled “Inclusive Science Communication”. There, I learned about website and figure accessibility (e.g. maps can be difficult for those with colorblindness), use of inclusive language and awareness of assumptions, and the importance of considering the intended audience.

One of the events SVP holds is the Romer prize, a prestigious prize awarded to a recent or soon-to-be PhD graduate for the best presentation. I was able to watch the majority of the Romer prize talks. I learned about a variety of fascinating research, from bone histology to fossil primates. These presentations also demonstrate ways to structure talks, visually structure slides, and present research. I find it helpful to learn from other’s examples with skills like presenting.

One of the best parts about attending conferences is learning about cutting-edge research. For instance, I learned that many paleontologists are using isotope geochemistry to answer really interesting research questions. This has inspired me to sign up for an isotope geochemistry course next semester.

Besides being exposed to new research, I was able to watch presentations and see posters of research similar to my master’s thesis project. I study speciation in wolves using geometric morphometrics and was able to learn about other’s research methods for handling the immense amounts of hybridization between wolf species and coyotes, such as mitochondrial DNA. It’s refreshing to see different approaches to a problem I’m focused on.

I look forward to attending future SVPs, hopefully in person.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.