Friday, 9 September 2016

TW:eed Team visits Liverpool

In late August, Team TW:eed members were in Liverpool for the annual Symposium of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Comparative Anatomy. Dr Tim Smithson reports.

The meeting was held in the Foresight Centre at the University of Liverpool. This wonderful brick and terracotta building designed by Alfred Waterhouse, famous for his design of the Natural History Museum in London, forms part of the redevelopment of the old Liverpool Royal Infirmary. It proved to be an excellent venue and was host to a rich and varied collection of talks and posters.

The Foresight Centre University of Liverpool, photo credit Tim Smithson
Jenny Clack presented an analysis of the extraordinary diversity of tetrapods found in the early Carboniferous of the Scottish Borders. Some of these appear to be closely related to Devonian forms while others may be much closer to the radiation of crown group Amphibia and Amniota.  This is consistent with the results of recent molecular studies which suggest that the split of extant tetrapods into amphibians, the frogs, newts and cecilians, and amniotes, the reptiles, birds and mammals, occurred in the early Carboniferous. Tim Smithson presented a talk on the fossil lungfish we have been finding in the Borders. Like the tetrapods, these show great diversity. This may in part be due to paedomorphosis, the retention by adults of traits previously only seen in young, and allowed the lungfish that survived the end-Devonian extinction event to radiate quickly.

The very busy poster session, photo credit Tim Smithson

At some meetings the poster sessions can be less well attended than the conference presentations. This was not the case in Liverpool. The organisers had stolen an idea from the experimental biologists and provided the poster presenters with the opportunity to give a lightening talk of no more than 5 minutes on their work.  This generated a lot interest and as a result the poster session was very lively and well supported.
Inspecting the lots at the auction, photo credit Tim Smithson

Each year the symposium holds an auction to raise money for the Jones-Fenleigh Fund which assists students with travel costs to the meeting. This year it was held in the chapel of the old Infirmary. Jeff Liston, the auctioneer, deserves a very special mention for pushing up the bidding and encouraging us to part with more funds than we had intended.

Mike Coates, Tim Smithson, Zerina Johanson and Jenny Clack at the Conference Dinner.
Photo credit Bernd Herkner
The meeting concluded with a Conference Dinner held in the Victoria Gallery Museum, another Waterhouse masterpiece, and provided the delegates with an opportunity to thank and congratulate the organisers for an excellent symposium.

Victoria Gallery Museum, University of Liverpool, photo credit Tim Smithson

Until next time


Thursday, 25 August 2016

Fossil Hunters goes on tour

The Fossil Hunters exhibit covering the work of the TW:eed project closed at National Museums Scotland on August 14th after an extremely successful run beginning in February. The exhibit showcases some of the tetrapod, fish and arthropod fossils found by the TW:eed Project and explains how scientists reconstruct the environment they lived in. The exhibit tells the story of how life evolved on land, with specimens from the early Devonian of Rhynie, this project and Carboniferous tetrapods from East Kirkton. My favourite part are the fabric artwork diorama reconstructions of the ancient tetrapod world, they are magnificent!
Image copyright Phil Wilkinson

Image copyright Ruth Armstrong Photography

Over 62,000 people visited the exhibit to much acclaim. Visitors to the exhibit included many from overseas, including  significant numbers from the US and Canada, but also France, Poland, Croatia, Indonesia,  China, Venezuela, India, Italy, Mexico,  New Zealand, Germany, Switzerland, Portugal, and Spain. The exhibit clearly appealed to a very wide cross section of the public, and numerous visitor comments reflect the enthusiasm for the research into early tetrapods around the world;

‘Very enlightening. Enjoyed the videos especially, really brings it to life. Reminded me of searching for fossils as a kid – inspired me to look again!’

‘Fascinating, well explained exhibition. Scotland is so special.’

‘Absolutely brilliant – fascinating to make link between science, technology and geology. Love the local links too – great exhibits and easy to understand. 10/10!’

‘One of the most interesting exhibitions I have seen anywhere!’

Components of the exhibit are now set to tour Scotland:
- Biggar and Upper Clydesdale Museum from 15 October 2016 - 15 January 2017
- Montrose Museum and Art Gallery from 21 January - 3 April 2017
- Museum nan Eilean (Lews Castle) from 13 April - 24 June 2017.

If you haven't already seen it I do hope you get the chance!

Until next time