Sunday, 6 September 2015

SVPCA 2015

This years SVPCA meeting was organised by Gareth Dyke and his team and was held at the National Oceanography Centre Southampton (NOCS), home of Ocean and Earth Science at the University of Southampton. Situated on the bustling docks and surrounded by hulking container ships and the floating tower blocks that modern ocean liners all seem to resemble these days, this excellent facility is home to vertebrate palaeontology research in Southampton, located as it is close to the Jurassic Coast and the Isle of Wight.

Talking ankylosaurs at SeaCity before the auction

Following hard on the heels of the Flugsaurier meeting the previous week in Portsmouth and with the SPPC preparators meeting the day before, delegates convened on Tuesday 1st September to hear three days of talks, attend two poster sessions and various social events. This year there were around 160 delegates attending, from emeritus professors to young palaeontologists, undergrads, postgrads, professional and amateur workers alike and palaeoartists were well represented. The SVPCA is always a more relaxing meeting than the SVP, less daunting to those giving their first talks and people there are always constructive with their advice.

The talks were of a high quality and despite being restricted to 15 minute slots for both talk and questions didn’t seem rushed; the programme put together by Mark Young and Darren Naish  contained a wide variety of talks that covered a satisfying wide variety of subjects. Even if a subject wasn’t particularly relevant to your own research chances are you left a session having learnt something or been found something to inspire new thinking in some way. There were no major technical glitches (although the movies didn’t work on my talk) and the sessions ran on time. There will be a special PeerJ volume based on papers arising from the meeting talks and posters, so if you did present it's time to get writing.

Conversations went on well into the night in the pubs near NOCS. The annual auction at SeaCity Museum raised a fantastic £1900 thanks to the sterling work of Jeff Liston as auctioneers  as well as the SVPCA A Team of Jessica Lawrence Wujeck, Aubrey Roberts, James Hansford and Liz Martin-Silverstone. The conference dinner was held in a dockside Thai restaurant and was very enjoyable, although being the day before the field trip . . . 

Delegates inspecting the Wessex Formation at Chilton Chine, Isle of Wight.

The field trip was led by Steve Sweetman and visited Brighstone and Compton Bays where the group took a long walk down the beach to inspect the fossil-bearing strata of the Wessex Formation, some of the most productive dinosaur localities in Europe. Dinosaur bone, plant material and dinosaur footprints were found. Lunch was taken at The Wight Mouse Inn, a pub beloved of the many vertebrate palaeontologists who visit the island. The next stop was at Dinosaur Isle where delegates saw the museum and the team of Alex Peaker, Shaun Smith and Gary Blackwell retrieved specimens for closer inspection and photography.

Further reviews are here:

The next meeting will be hosted by Liverpool John Moores University, and I’m looking forward to it already. As one delegate said to me before leaving, “it’s been inspirational”. You can’t really ask for more than that can you?

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