Welcome to Day 3 of the EGU Annual Meeting. Do check the Geology for Global Development page too for some cracking updates on the sessions, particularly on the more ‘applied’ side of the geosciences, by Rosalie Testovin. This post is a quick break-down of some cool science from the morning session on the interaction between tectonics (faulting and folding from plate-related movements) and stratigraphy (the way in which rock packages are linked with each other). Naturally, I had to cover this one, as it was co-sponsored by the Geological Society of London (I’m an ex-employee), and was convened by a member of my department (Dr. Alex Whittaker) at Imperial College with another giving a talk (Prof. Phillip Allen). Here’s a quick break down of some of the talks (at least in as much detail as to be expected from a vertebrate palaeontologist):
Day 2 in the Big Brother house (aka the European Geosciences Union General Meeting). There’s no where near enough beer, and tensions are getting high. A horde of angry horses have invaded the lower levels, and taken the President of Austria hostage, with demands of lowering the Fair Straw Tax.
But throughout all the acid-fuelled hysteria, two events have stuck out so far today. The first was a workshop discussion on open access publishing for early career researchers (ECRs), hosted by a new Editor for the EGU’s publishing house, Copernicus. Unfortunately, this event confirmed a lot of the current issues with the development of open access policies globally, in that there has been a serious communications breakdown about the effects the policy transitions, particularly in the UK now that Research Councils UK’s (RCUK) open access policy has come into play (April 1st), will have on how and where ECRs can publish. Here are comments on several of the more prevalent points raised:
NASA might be having a rain-check on its outreach activities, but that’s not why Curiosity has gone silent the last few days. Every once in a while an event known as the Mars Solar Conjunction places Mars’ orbit directly behind the sun with respect to Earth, and makes communications impossible. Transmissions have ceased until May 1st, when the red planet will pop back into digital sight. Until then, Curiosity is working on the ‘B-side’ (like the cool side of the pillow) of its systems and operating autonomously.
In the mean time, I’ve been fortunate enough to be at the MSL (Mars Science Laboratory) Press Conference here in Vienna, with the latest from the little (1 tonne) science-savvy robot. During the current down time, it’s a chance for the teams to begin to really process the data and get the science out there (see here for where Curiosity has got to so far). This is a snippet of what to expect in forthcoming publications.
Panel at the Press Conference: (from left to right) John Grotzinger, Sylvestre Maurice, Sushil Atreya, Javier Gomez-Elvira, and Igor Mitrofanov (click for larger)
How can the dead help the living? This is a question a lot of fossil-fanatics have bent a lot of time towards over recent years, partially due to a desire to make palaeontology ‘relevant’ as a modern science, and secondly to help guide our efforts in conservation biology. A new series, edited by my supervisor Dr. Phil Mannion and others, focusses on the way we interpret palaeobiodiversity, biodiversity in the fossil record, for different groups and the issues and solutions facing the field. The final article in the volume struck me in particular.
How can fossils help us to protect these now and in the future? Source.
My PhD consists of two parts. The first is investigating the dynamics of biodiversity across the Jurassic/Cretaceous interval about 145 million years ago. I want to see if when we consider the biases of the fossil record whether there was a ‘hidden’ mass extinction, and what were the ecological, physiological or environmental factors that correspond to this. This involves looking at turtles, birds, dinosaurs, marine reptiles, lizards, snakes, crocodiles and any other tetrapod group at the time – that’s anything with four feet, flippers or wings (see previous post for an update on all this jazz).
Evolutionary relationships of major tetrapod groups – many extinct, and many still with us today! Source.
It’s been 6 months now, and a while since I updated y’all with what it’s like in the world of a PhD-palaeontologist. In case you missed it, my intention was to open up PhD life and research a bit to expose what it’s like beyond the simple production of research papers. Which is probably a good thing, as I don’t have any papers out yet. Setting the cultural default within academia to open is something I’m quite in to, and I guess this is my little contribution to that.
So it’s been a few months since I last posted in this series. During that time, PhD life has been both a feast and a whirlwind of writing, reading, data collection, blogging, socialising, teaching, and most importantly, learning.
Seabirds are well adapted to acquire their prey. Those that feed on bivalves close to the surface have short, strong bills to break into shells and access molluscan meat, and those that feed on bivalves buried deeper in the sand have much longer, slender bills to access their prey. The association between bill morphology and the prey type of different bird species is a frequently cited example of niche differentiation, where animals living in close proximity have evolved distinct feeding strategies which prevent them from being in direct competition with each other (known as resource partitioning).