Sunday, 17 January 2016

The shape of things to come...

As many of you will have noticed, the NHM's Dinosaur Gallery is currently closed for some much needed renovation work, and is due to reopen in late February 2016 (though it will open for the week of February half-term, before closing for a few more days after this to finish things off). This isn't a wholesale redevelopment of the gallery - that project is probably a few years distant (at least) and is dependent not only on raising the necessary funds, but also on some complex planning and the completion of several other large-scale museum projects that would need to be finished before the Dinosaur Gallery could be tackled. The current work is aimed at improving some aspects of visitor experience to the gallery (and to the museum as a whole) and in response to changing government health and safety guidelines, with which the museum has to comply.

So, what's changing? I can't reveal too much at this stage, but I can give some insights into what's going on. One of the major drivers for the work is to try and deal with the huge queues for the gallery, which currently lead to frustrating congestion in Hintze Hall. With 5.4 million visitors per year, the museum needs to find ways to enable the movement of people around the building more efficiently. Currently,  the popularity of the Dinosaur Gallery and the large queue that occupies Hintze Hall on busy days is a real barrier to this. The idea behind the current project is to find other ways of managing this queue, by moving it to other areas of the building and by providing a better experience for those people waiting in the queue. Another major driver behind the work is dealing with an engineering issue within the gallery that means some aspects of the way in which it's been used to date need to be altered.

One of the most obvious changes will be a new entrance to the gallery and an altered route for visitors through the various exhibits. However, there will be relatively few alterations to the actual content, so that the vast majority of current exhibits will still be on show. We are taking the opportunity to make some updates, however, with the removal of a few very dated displays, updates to information with specimens where required, a deep clean of all the exhibits, and some other changes reflecting the bird/dinosaur more accurately. So, although the project involves a lot of work, it's mainly an exercise in updating the current gallery rather than a large-scale redevelopment and rethink.

While the gallery is closed it's still possible to see dinosaurs in other parts of the museum - most obviously Sophie the Stegosaurus in our Earth Hall, but also the original Archaeopteryx specimen and Iguanodon teeth in our Treasures Gallery. More dinosaur content can also be found in the From the Beginning Gallery - alongside fossils of many other groups that are otherwise not found elsewhere in the public galleries.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

A productive year for the lab!

It's the time of year when we're all taking stock and looking back at the accomplishments of last year as well as looking ahead to the opportunities and travails of the year ahead. With this in mind, here's a summary of what the lab got up to last year: a bit dry I'm afraid, but it gives a reasonable picture of the sorts of research that's been going on and what we've been up to...

A big shout out to my postdocs David N. and Charlotte, to my PhD students Simon, Matt, David B., Terri, David F., Amy, Serjoscha, Selina, Omar and Richard, and to a large number of collaborators all over the world (you know who you are)... Here's looking forward to an even more productive 2016.  

Arrivals & Departures

A sad farewell to Dr Charlotte Brassey after over a year of working full-time on Project Sophie. Charlotte has moved on to a research position at the University of Manchester in Bill Sellars’ research group.

Congratulations to Dr David Button on submitting his dissertation and passing his PhD viva in 2015 and on getting a new post in the Butler Lab at the University of Birmingham.

Welcome to Richard Fallon (University of Leicester), who’s co-supervised by Paul (alongside Gowan Dawson, Leicester and Will Tattersdill, Birmingham), and is doing is PhD on public responses to dinosaurs and other extinct reptiles in the Victorian period.

Journal Articles

Apostolaki, N., Rayfield, E. J. & Barrett, P. M. 2015. Osteological and soft-tissue evidence for pneumatization in the cervical column of the ostrich (Struthio camelus) and observations on the vertebral columns of non-volant, semi-volant and semi-aquatic birds. PLoS ONE 10: e0143834. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0143834

Baron, M. G. 2015. An investigation of the genus Mesacanthus (Chordata: Acanthodii) from the Orcadian Basin and Midland Valley areas of Northern and Central Scotland using traditional morphometrics. PeerJ 3: e1331.

Barrett, P. M, Evans, D. C. & Campione, N. E. 2015. Evolution of dinosaur epidermal structures. Biology Letters 11: 20150229. doi:10.1098/rsbl.2015.0229

Barrett, P. M., Nesbitt, S. J. & Peecook, B. R. 2015. A large-bodied silesaurid from the Lifua Member of the Manda beds (Middle Triassic) of Tanzania and its implications for body-size evolution in Dinosauromorpha. Gondwana Research 27: 925­–931. doi:10.1016/

Bates, K., Maidment, S. C. R., Schachner, E. R. & Barrett, P. M.  2015. Comments and corrections on 3D modelling studies of locomotor muscle moment arms in archosaurs. PeerJ 3: e1272. doi: 10.7717/peerj.1272

Brassey, C. A, Maidment, S. C. R. & Barrett, P. M. 2015. Body mass estimates of an exceptionally complete Stegosaurus (Ornithischia: Thyreophora): comparing volumetric and linear bivariate mass estimation methods. Biology Letters 11: 20140984. doi:10.1098/rsbl.2014.0984

Brusatte, S. L., Butler, R. J., Barrett, P. M., Carrano, M. T., Evans, D. C., Lloyd, G. T., Mannion, P. D., Norell, M. A., Peppe, D. J., Upchurch, P. & Williamson, T. E. 2015. The extinction of the dinosaurs. Biological Reviews 90: 628–642. doi:10.1111/brv.12128

Choiniere, J. N. & Barrett, P. M. 2015. A sauropodomorph dinosaur from the ?Early Jurassic of Lusitu, Zambia. Palaeontologia africana 49: 42–52.

Cleary, T. J., Moon, B. C., Dunhill, A. M. & Benton, M. J. 2015. The fossil record of ichthyosaurs, completeness metrics and sampling biases. Palaeontology 58: 521–536.

Evans, D. C., Barrett, P. M., Brink, K. S. & Carrano, M. T. 2015. Osteology and bone microstructure of new, small theropod dinosaur material from the early Late Cretaceous of Morocco. Gondwana Research 27: 1034–1041. doi:10.1016/

Evers, S. W., Rauhut O. W. M., Milner A. C., McFeeters B. & Allain, R. 2015. The morphology and systematic position of the theropod dinosaur Sigilmassasaurus from the ‘middle’ Cretaceous of Morocco. PeerJ 3: e1323. doi:10.7717/peerj.1323

Foth C., Evers S. W., Pabst B., Mateus O., Flisch A., Patthey M., Rauhut O. W. M. 2015. New insights into the lifestyle of Allosaurus (Dinosauria: Theropoda) based on another specimen with multiple pathologies. PeerJ 3: e940. doi:10.7717/peerj.940

Maidment, S. C. R., Brassey, C. & Barrett, P. M. 2015. The postcranial skeleton of an exceptionally complete individual of the plated dinosaur Stegosaurus stenops (Dinosauria: Thyreophora) from the Upper Jurassic Morrison Formation of Wyoming, USA. PLoS ONE 10: e0138352. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0138352

Nicholson, D. B., Holroyd, P. A., Benson, R. B. J., & Barrett, P. M. 2015. Climate-mediated diversification of turtles in the Cretaceous. Nature Communications 6: 7848. doi:10.1038/ncomms8848

Nicholson, D. B., Mayhew, P. J., & Ross, A. J. 2015. Changes to the fossil record of insects through fifteen years of discovery. PLoS One 10: e0128554. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0128554

Porro, L. B., Witmer, L. M. & Barrett, P. M. 2015. Digital preparation and osteology of the skull of Lesothosaurus diagnosticus. PeerJ 3: e1494. 0.7717/peerj.1494

Upchurch, P., Andres, B., Butler, R. J. & Barrett, P. M. 2015. An analysis of pterosaurian biogeography: implications for the evolutionary history and fossil record quality of the first flying vertebrates. Historical Biology 27: 696­–716. doi:10.1080/08912963.2014.939077 

Awards & Grants

Amy: Student Poster Award, The Micropalaeontological Society Foraminifera and Nannofossil Meeting; University of Bristol Alumi Foundation Travel Grant.
Matt: Jackson Student Travel Grant to attend SVP in Dallas.
Selina: Winner, Three Minute Thesis Competition, MAPS Faculty UCL.
Serjoscha: SYNTHESYS grant for 10 days research at SMNS in Stuttgart; Rodney M. Feldmann Award of the Paleontological Society for Australochelys Project in South Africa; NERC Impact and Innovation Award (through Oxford DTP) for CT scanning project in Chicago; University College Oxford Research Training Fund for academic travel.

Conference Talks & Posters

Amy: Talk on on Cretaceous turtle niche modelling at GSA; poster on foram niche modelling at TMS foram and nanofossil meering; poster at the International Biogeography Society.
David: Talk on on turtle palaeolatituduinal distributions at GSA and at PalAss.
Matt: Poster on Lesothosaurus postcranium at SVP and a talk on the same subject at Prog. Pal.
Paul: Talk on turtle palaeolatitudinal distributions at SVP.
Serjoscha: Poster on Rhinochelys at SVPCA and a talk on Allosaurus pathologies at the Paläontologische Gesellschaft.
Simon: Posters on Middle Jurassic dromaeosaur teeth at SVP and on the Woodeaton fauna at SVPCA and PalAss.
Terri: Poster on Mesozoic and Paleogene squamate diversity at PalAss.