Posts Tagged 'my research'

Hello girls!

In our final post in this series my own PhD student Ross Elgin takes us through the work we did (with others I must hastily add) on the aerodynamics of pterosaur crests. This is one of those much discussed but little researched areas with (perhaps ironically) lots of hot air, but little moving air (like in a wind tunnel for example). So read on as we take to the skies with those crested pterosaurs.

Continue reading ‘Hello girls!’

No ado about much – new dinosaur footprints from China

There are great papers that get all the attention that they deserve, great papers that don’t get the attention they deserve, bad papers that get attention they don’t deserve and one that get just the right amount. This is one of the latter. Not, I would hasten to add, that it is not a good paper but simply that I would be surprised if many people outside of the dinosaur ichnology crowd would be particularly interested and perhaps not even them.

Continue reading ‘No ado about much – new dinosaur footprints from China’

The research hydra

I really should stop writing blog posts in exchange for doing some work, but no matter how self-inflicted my workload is, this is cathartic (and part of my lunch-break). It really does seem that for every project I finish (or finish contributing to) two more spring up (or even three or four) and I am buried right now in half-finished and unsubmitted papers.

While many are on temporary or long-term hold (waiting for contributions from colleagues, access to certain specimens, money or all three) more than enough are ‘active’ enough to keep me going for a couple of years. Which would be fine were it not for the fact that I certainly do not have two free years to get the work done in, and there is plenty on the back-burner that also needs attention. What I need to do is get some of them finished, but that is far easier said than done, and it takes a huge amount of time. You might get something out the door (i.e. submitted) but it will still be there for another year or two until it is actually in print, demanding your time on occasion.

Jerry Harris made the great point that “the hardest thing to learn was when to say no to cool projects”, I just wish he’d told me that a couple of years back.



Ok, so I stole the pun from here , but it is brilliant. I sense a T-shirt series in the offing.

Flugsaurier: pterosaur papers in honour of Peter Wellnhofer

Dr Peter Wellnhofer

Dr Peter Wellnhofer

Anyone who has kept up with the Musings in it’s various incarnations and the blogs of various associates will be well aware of the fact that in the autumn of 2007 I organised a pterosaur meeting in Munich to celebrate the career of pterosaurian research legend Peter Wellnhofer and generally have a nice meeting on my favourite flying archosaurs. If you have somehow missed out on this you can find posts on the Musings and elsewhere on the accompanying exhibition, the meeting itself, and most recently the research volume.

This is the real subject of this post as the proofs are now in, final formatting is underway and with a following wind, 2008 will (just) see the publication of “Flugsaurier: pterosaur papers in honour of Peter Wellnhofer”. (We have not had a final date from the printers yet and with Christmas approaching, it might end up being early January, but I hold out hope for a 2008 date). This should be quite a moment in pterosaur research as dinosaur volumes are common, but pterosaur ones are very rare (there have only ever been three serious books on pterosaurs and just a couple of research volumes before this one) so any new compilation will be important for any interested parties.

So what does this stunning volume contain I hear you ask? Some 17 papers on pterosaur research, totalling 264 pages (A4 sized, including some coloured plates) covering, well, everything – systematics, origins, locomotion, biomechanics, ichnology, reproduction, behaviour, history and histology. Tell you what, I’ll even list every paper for you (and when it comes out, I’ll be slinging out a few reviews too):

Continue reading ‘Flugsaurier: pterosaur papers in honour of Peter Wellnhofer’

Bonus journal apoplexy post

Two in a day again, I am being for too productive. Sill this is cathartic and has put me in a foul mood and is worth highlighting as one of the pitfalls of science. (There are plenty more here if you want them).

I am a young researcher and I’m currently applying for a variety of jobs and grants to try and extend my career in palaeontology beyond the end of my current contract. As such, each new publication is valuable and every accepted (or better yet, published) manuscript goes a long way to improving my CV and the chances of getting a job. However, that is reliant on the actual journals doing their job, which leads me to the (current) source of my anger.

Nearly seven months ago I submitted a large manuscript to a leading palaeontolgoical journal (I won’t say which, that is rather unfair) which had taken me a long time to assemble – it represents a major bit of my work of the last year or so. Typical journal review times are about three months, but being generous I gave it four before I actually contacted the journal to ask if there was any news on my paper. The answer? They had not even sent it out for review, but ‘would do so shortly’.

Fast forward another three months and I kind of assume that things will be done by now, they have sent it out, it was well before the new University year started and the autumn meeting season, so researchers should have a bit of time free. The response I got back yesterday? The replies from the referees came back in September, and the editor was waiting to ‘make a decision’ (which frankly sounds a awful lot like ‘no’).

So there you have it, a huge piece of my research has sat with the journal for more than half a year, and I still do not even have a reply yet, and that is very likely to be ‘thanks, but no thanks’. I could have sent this piece to two or even three journals in this time and had a response by now, had the thing accepted (because even if there are problems, a couple of rounds of review will soon iron those out) and added to my CV. Instead I have nothing. At all. And yet it seems that the referees actually did their jobs in about six weeks, which is actually pretty fast, and the delays have been simply a case of the journal not actually doing anything with the manuscript, and not telling me about the delays either except when I ask.

I wonder if I should ever bother using this journal again, I am exaggerating of course, but my career could hinge on this. A 30 page paper in a major journal would go a long way to showing my credentials as a researcher and the thing could be in press by now with a faster journal. Cheers guys. Oh, and incidentally, this is the second time this has happened this year, the other journal lost my manuscript for five months and didn’t tell me, even when my co-author inquired as to why it was taking so long. Magic.

The Great Pterosaur Exhibition of 2007

While I have at least mentioned the Wellnhofer pterosaur meeting of Munich a few times here (for full coverage go here on Tetrapod Zoology) there were wider events going on in Munich at the time in which I was naturally involved. The Bavarian State Collection for Palaeontology and Geology where I was working at the time is a very small place – the main hall is perhaps 10m by 15m and based around a balcony but still manages to cram in a huge amount of material. Each autumn they prepare a small exhibit on a specialised topic and with the Flugsaurier meeting already planned for October, the obvious choice was for a display on pterosaurs. Now this is a year old, and no longer on display it seemed like a good time for me to have a little retrospective and for you to sit through it.

Continue reading ‘The Great Pterosaur Exhibition of 2007’

Not quite according to plan

Today we were out at the local site known as Gomez, trying to hunt down some elusive marine reptiles in a Late Jurassic section. Plenty of beautiful ammonites were in evidence, lots of bivalves and oysters, some wood and not much else. Still the exposures we were checking had been well covered and really the trip was about working out the viability of a long term dig to get at the layers below after the bones we know are there (several nice skeletons have already been recovered).

Continue reading ‘Not quite according to plan’

A couple of field photos

Sticking with a theme, there is not much to tell from the field as of yet, though today we got to look over the as yet largely unexploited dinosaur site at Las Aguilas, near Salltio. This has a series of footprints of sauropods, theropods and large ornithopods and even though we were limited to looking at scraps and broken peices on the surface, it was enough to identify sauropods, two different theropods and a large ornithopod. Not bad when you consider the state of the material and the amount of time we had. One obviously hopes that under the slopes and hills there are plenty more peices that have yet to weather and break. One remarkable feature of the material was how good the condition was even for the badly broken bits that suggests the original might be superb, one can only hope. Further exploration and exploitation is planned here, but as ever we are reliant on funds and permits. Still, the prospects are good.

Photos to follow.
Continue reading ‘A couple of field photos’

Sun, sand, salt, sores, blisters, baijiu, bruises & bone

There is, as promised, quite a little flurry of posts today and with my e-mail backlog finally cleared and most of the more important work off my desk till tomorrow morning I can try and do some real writing. Sadly for many, I suspect this first post will not be especially fascinating – I’m not going to talk about anything we found, I don’t have my photos on me currently so it’ll be image-less, I’ll not even mention where we were (geologically, temporally or geographically) and I rather think that readers will either be well aware of the issues I’ll be tacking, or will find their glorious illusions shattered. What I do want to do is simply jot down a few quick observations about the field.

As I mentioned before, I have only done some very minor prospecting in the German Triassic marine beds and cast some footprints in Peru, neither of which is especially ‘typical’ for someone who really likes big whole skeletons of big dinosaurs so he can get to grips with whole animal biology. Thus getting out into an area famous for producing lots of big, complete, high-quality dinosaurs is actually quite a change, and over quite a period of time, with a decently sized and experienced field crew. At some point I will do a post on what we did, and when, and where and with who etc. and another on the actual ‘what happens on a dig’ post (with my now minimal experience) but this is limited to just some of my notes as to things that were not quite what I expected. Mostly these are clearly because I had never really thought about them that much and hindsight is rather 20-20 so it may not surprise people to learn them at all. Finally, it may not actually be that typical an experience either – I don’t exactly have much to compare it to!
Continue reading ‘Sun, sand, salt, sores, blisters, baijiu, bruises & bone’

Hope springs eternal

Another picture and not much text and not much point (rather like Andy Capp). Anyway, I was out at the IVPP’s satellite facility a few weeks back and took a few photos which I will put up when time allows and I have nothing else on hand.

It\'s cold out, get your jacket

It's cold out, get your jacketd

Sadly it’s not where satellites are made, but where large specimens are stored (like sauropods), casting and mounting equipment, and unprepared field jackets of specimens. Here you can see the large collection of pieces from previous expeditions in various states of preparation. Most of them have been opened up so you can see what is inside, but little has been done beyond that. As you can imagine it is a room of treasures, with various undescribed dinosaurs and bits of crocs, pterosaurs and other goodies vying for space in the cramped rooms. My guess is there is work here for a dozen preparators for a couple of years, and this is not the only room like this. And now there is a fair bit more coming back as a result of the latest IVPP foray into the field.

Into the field!

As far as I’m concerned my own credibility as a palaeontologist is slightly tarnished by not having been on a major dig. I have done some basic prospecting in Germany, and went out, found and cast some footprints in Peru, but it’s not quite the same. (Pictured is Dave Unwin, Jungchang Lu and myself looking at eggshell pieces in Henan).

Hone, Unwin & Lu take in the sights in a hole in the ground.

Hone, Unwin & Lu take in the sights in a hole in the ground.

However all that is about to change….
Continue reading ‘Into the field!’

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