Tuesday, 5 February 2019

2018: A Year In Review

It's becoming a tradition for me to summarize the work we've done in the previous year, mainly as a way of taking stock and in a (usually futile) attempt to keep up this blog more regularly. There were lots of changes in the lab this year with numerous arrivals and departures and everyone has had a really busy year.

I was pleased to welcome two new postdocs to the lab early in 2018: Dr David Button and Dr Marc Jones. Both David and Marc are working on a NERC-funded project that I'm leading with Laura Porro (UCL) on the evolution and biomechanics of feeding in early dinosaurs. They've spent most of this year beavering away on building 3D models of various dinosaurs, birds and lizards, including some beautiful material from Argentina that Ricardo Martinéz loaned to us over the summer. They've already been able to present some of their results already, at the SVPCA meeting in Manchester, on Coelophysis and Hypsilophodon. Watch this space as the project develops in future.

David, Marc and Vincent Fernandez looking at scans of Adeopapposaurus

Although not members of the lab, I'm also thrilled by the appointment of two new colleagues that will be frequent collaborators both with me and other lab members and who also strengthen the NHM's expertise in fossil reptiles. These are Dr Susie Maidment, who joins us as a new researcher and Dr Mike Day as a new curator. We're already building strong links, with Susie and me co-supervising Tom Raven's PhD and many more projects planned for the future.

Balancing our arrivals, it's been a bittersweet year with several members of the lab departing for pastures new. Terri Cleary, Serjoscha Evers, Richard Fallon, David Ford and Selina Groh all submitted their PhDs this year and at the time of writing I'm very proud to report that Terri, Serjoscha and Selina have all had their vivas and passed with flying colours. Terri has moved on to a postdoc at Birmingham University (in Richard Butler's group), Selina has taken up a research assistantship at UCL (working with Paul Upchurch) and Serjoscha is due to start a postdoc at the University of Freiburg (in Walter Joyce's lab). Paul Varotsis took the difficult decision to call time on his PhD, although he's continuing his interest in the history of palaeontology with a new project on Baron Nopcsa. I'll miss seeing them around so often, but wish them all the best of luck in their new posts and careers and hope that I'll be continuing to work with them all on many occasions in future.

Lots of vivas late in 2018 with (clockwise from top left), Terri, Selina and Serjoscha all freshly minted PhDs. There's a fourth ex lab member in here for good measure too ...
All members of the lab have had busy travel years, mainly for collections visits, but also for conferences, talks and fieldwork. We were lucky enough to have a combined lab fieldtrip for a couple of days before the SVP Meeting in Albuquerque, when Terri, Omar Regalado-Fernandez, Selina, Simon Wills, João Leite, Tom Raven and me, accompanied by Emma Dunne (University of Birmingham) and Phil Mannion and Alessandro Chiarenza (Imperial) headed down from Denver to New Mexico taking in Dinosaur Ridge, Garden of the Gods, Great Sand Dunes National Park and Sante Fe en route. In addition, I was able to spend July in South Africa, based at the ESI in Johannesburg, working on a number of projects with my colleagues Prof. Jonah Choiniere and lab PhD student Kimi Chapelle, as well as catching up with lots of other colleagues. Earlier in the year (March) Paul and Kimi were both able to do two weeks of fieldwork in Zimbabwe, collecting Late Triassic dinosaurs and other tetrapods on the shores of Lake Kariba with our friends at the ESI, and in September Kimi did work in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, on a project that is likely to run for several years and that will involve me and other members of the lab in future. Becky Lakin even managed some work on living dinosaurs, helping with a bird-ringing project in Chamela National Park, Mexico.

On the road at Dinosaur Ridge, CO prior to SVP 2018 (photo: Emma Dunne)
Tom, João and Omar did lots of travel between them this year, with trips to collections in Canada, China, Mongolia and the USA between them. Tom had a particularly good year in terms of getting travel awards, with a record-breaking number that included grants from the Geological Society Daniel Pidgeon Fund, the Palaeontological Association Whittington Award, the Society of Systematic Biologists, the Jurassic Foundation, the Universities’ China Commission and the Palaeontographical Society. João also had a magic funding touch, getting grants from the Universities’ China Commission and the Welles Fund, University of California, Berkeley. Paul had a great trip to Argentina in November (including seeing the penguins on the Patagonian coast), kick-starting a project with Diego Pol on early sauropodomorph dinosaurs, with Diego carrying out a return visit to London later in the year.

We've been to a lot of conferences between us this year with particularly strong showings at EAVP in Portugal (talks from Omar and Terri and a poster from João), SVP in the USA (talks from Kimi, Omar and Selina, poster for Tom, and invited talks for Paul and Terri), and SVPCA in the UK (talks from Marc, Omar and Paul, posters from David and Tom). SVP was busy for other reasons too, with this being Paul's first meeting as Program Co-Chair, with Dr Pat Holroyd. It was a very busy run-up to the meeting as a result, but it was a fulfilling experience to build the scientific program of the meeting. Paul was the keynote speaker at PSSA in Bloemfontein, as well as a coauthor on several other presentations, and also attended his first RCAPA in Puerto Madryn. Becky flew the flag for the lab with a poster at IPC in Paris. One meeting-related prize also came our way, with Kimi winning the prize for best student presentation at the PSSA meeting in Bloemfontein. It was tremendous to see associate lab member Angela Milner pick up an Honorary Membership of SVP in recognition of her numerous contributions to the subject over the course of her long and distinguished career, especially as she has been one of Paul's most important mentors.

Angela Milner displaying her Honorary Membership of SVP
As well as presenting at conferences, lab members also helped run sessions. Tom and João have been active in organizing NHM student events, including the annual NHM student conference, and Richard co-organised a workshop on 'Self-Fashioning Scientific Identities in the Long Nineteenth Century', at the University of Leicester in July. Omar was President of the UCL Mexican Society and responsible for running many events through the year. We've also given workshops and seminars at varied venues with David talking at the Leicester Literary and Philosophy Society and Paul giving talks to an archosaur workshop at IVPP, Beijing, the Hakkusan Geopark meeting in Japan and seminars to the palaeo and evolution groups at UCL, Portsmouth and Bath. Paul also gave the Annual Address of the Palaeontographical Society, coinciding with the end of his 5-year term as President (and 13-year term on Council!). Following his departure from Pal. Soc., Paul took on a major new role as Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Systematic Palaeontology, so now has to read papers on brachiopods, forams and insects to atone for his sins in a previous life.

Reaching out to different audiences is really important and we've also been busy in that respect. Tom helped out with the Palaeontological Association stand at the Yorkshire Fossil Fair, Paul went to assist the team at his first Lyme Regis Fossil Festival, and Kimi participated in a number of workshops for local communities in the Eastern Cape. We've also presented a lot in the NHM with frequent appearances from Becky, David, João, Tom and me at NHM Nature Lives and Lates Events and also in the media. David was even filmed for the "So Beano" show on Sky TV and also participated in the Royal Society's annual Young Person's Book Awards in Belfast. Dippy on Tour continues to do really well at venues around the country and we're also planning some major new dino exhibitions at the NHM for the future ...

Becky presenting a poster in association with her nomination for a UNESCO Women in Science award
In addition to research and outreach, we also helped out with teaching. Richard co-taught four days of workshops on the earth sciences and Victorian culture at South London primary schools, in collaboration with the heritage engagement group Emerald Ant and in support of the Friends of the Crystal Palace Dinosaurs. At the other end of the globe, Kimi led courses on R and geometric morphometrics and demonstrated on animal form and function at the ESI, as well as co-supervising a Master's project. Selina, João and Omar all helped out on various courses at UCL, including demonstrating practicals and helping with projects.

So, a hectic year, not without its frustrations, but with plenty positive to look back on. 2019 is already shaping up to be another manic year!

Papers published (excludes early online versions)

Baron, M. G. & Barrett, P. M. 2018. Support for the placement of Chilesaurus within Ornithischia: a reply to Müller et al.. Biology Letters, 14, 20180002.

Butler, R. J., Nesbitt, S. J., Charig, A. J., Gower, D. J. & Barrett, P. M. 2018. Mandasuchus tanyauchen gen. et sp. nov., a pseudosuchian archosaur from the Manda Beds of Tanzania. Memoirs of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, 17, 96–121. 

Carrano, M. T., Loewen, M. A. & Evers, S. W. 2018. Comment (Case 3506)—Conservation of Allosaurus Marsh, 1877 (Dinosauria, Theropoda): additional data in support of the proposed neotype for its type species Allosaurus fragilis Marsh, 1877. Bulletin of Zoological Nomenclature, 75, 59–64.

Chapelle, K. E. J. & Choiniere, J. N. 2018. A revised cranial description of Massospondylus carinatus based on computed tomographic scans and a review of cranial characters for basal Sauropodomorpha. PeerJ, 6, e4224.

Cleary, T. J., Benson, R. B. J., Evans, S.E. & Barrett, P. M. 2018. Lepidosaurian diversity in the Mesozoic–Palaeogene: the potential roles of sampling biases and environmental driversRoyal Society Open Science5, 171830.

Close, R. A., Evers S. W., Alroy, J. & Butler, R. J. 2018. How should we estimate diversity in the fossil record? Testing richness estimators using sampling‐standardised discovery curves. Methods in Ecology and Evolution, 9, 1386–1400.

Dunne, E. M., Close, R. A., Button, D. J., Brocklehurst, N., Cashmore, D. C., Lloyd, G. T. & Butler, R. J. 2018. Diversity change during the rise of tetrapods and the impact of the ‘Carboniferous rainforest collapse’. Proceedings of the Royal Society B285, 20172730. 

Fallon, R. L. 2018. "Literature Rather Than Science": Henry Neville Hutchinson (1856–1927) and the literary borderlines of science writing. Journal of Literature and Science, 11, 50–65.

Graham, M. R., Choiniere, J. N., Jirah, S. & Barrett, P. M. 2018. The remedial conservation and support jacketing of the Massospondylus carinatus neotype. Palaeontologia africana, 52, 222–227. 

Jones, M. E., Lucas, P. W., Tucker, A. S., Watson, A. P., Sertich, J. J., Foster, J. R., Williams, R., Garbe, U., Bevitt, J. J. & Salvemini, F., 2018. Neutron scanning reveals unexpected complexity in the enamel thickness of an herbivorous Jurassic reptile. Journal of The Royal Society Interface, 15, 20180039.

Nesbitt, S. J., Butler, R. J., Ezcurra, M., Charig, A. J.  & Barrett, P. M. 2018. The anatomy of Teleocrater rhadinus, an early avemetatarsalian from the lower portion of the Lifua Member of the Manda Beds (~Middle Triassic). Memoirs of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, 17, 142–177.  

Nicholl, C. S. C., Mannion, P. D. & Barrett, P. M. 2018. Sauropod dinosaur remains from a new Early Jurassic locality in the Central High Atlas of Morocco. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica, 63, 147–157. 

O’Connor, R. E., Romanov, M. N., Kiazim, L. G., Barrett, P. M., Farré, M., Damas, J., Ferguson-Smith, M., Valenzuela, N., Larkin, D. M. & Griffin, D. K. 2018. Reconstruction of the diapsid ancestral genome permits chromosome evolution tracing in avian and non-avian dinosaurs. Nature Communications, 9, 1883. 

Raven, T. R. & Maidment, S. C. R. 2018. The systematic position of the enigmatic thyreophoran dinosaur Paranthodon africanus and the use of basal exemplifiers in phylogenetic analysis. PeerJ, 6, e4529.

Viglietti, P., Barrett, P. M., Broderick, T., Munyikwa, D., MacNiven, R., Broderick, L., Chapelle, K. J., Glynn, D., Edwards, S., Zondo, M., Broderick, P. & Choiniere, J. N. 2018. Stratigraphy of the Vulcanodon type locality and its implications for regional correlations within the Karoo Supergroup. Journal of African Earth Sciences, 137, 149–156.  

Wills, S., Choiniere, J. N. & Barrett, P. M. 2018. Predictive modelling of fossil-bearing locality distributions in the Elliot Formation (Upper Triassic­–Lower Jurassic), South Africa, using combined multivariate and spatial statistical analyses of present day environmental data. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 489, 186–197.

Xu, X., Upchurch, P., Mannion, P. D., Barrett, P. M., Regalado-Fernandez, O. R., Mo, J.-Y., Ma, J.-F. & Liu, H.-G. 2018. A new Middle Jurassic diplodocoid suggests an earlier dispersal and diversification of sauropod dinosaurs. Nature Communications, 9, 2700.