Well as it’s the end of the year it’s time for my annual roundup of the last year’s trials and tribulations of my research and palaeolife. I’ve been generally ticking along well this year in terms of post numbers, at least in part because I’ve had a few major trips that have yielded much new material to blog about and I’ve been in the field less than previous years. As such I’ve been able to maintain nearly a post a day for the whole year which I’m rather proud of. Sticking with generalities, this year saw the Musings hit 500 000 visitors (and now closer to a million than that figure) and I passed a thousand posts too. The palaeoart interviews really took off this year and the guest posts continue to trickle in, most notably the second half on Darren Tanke’s superb Gorgosaurs series. Finally in just the last week I’ve signed up to Twitter which I hope will boost my outreach still further (like I really need that).
Moving on, as per usual I’m moving month-by-month, if mostly because it’s the easiest way of trawling though a whole years worth of posts to see what happened when and what’s worth commenting on. As usual, this is a personal list and deals really with things I did or that happened to me rather than
January saw the description of the little alvarezsaur Linhenykus. Notable for having just a single finger on each hand this was a great little thing to see described. While I can take fully no credit at all for it’s discovery, this was a paper that I was involved in from start to finish and was pleased to see it go through.
February saw the publication of a paper on science communication and my Ask A Biologist site (this is available here on Open Access for the next few days at least for those who are interested). AAB was started really because I wanted to do it and thought it would be useful, and it has grown enormously in the last few years. As such it was nice to get something more tangible personally from it by publishing a paper on the successes and failures of the site and to try and encourage other academics into committing themselves to outreach projects. This month also saw my first trip of the year to China, effectively to sign-off the formalities of my three years there and complete the necessary paperwork and interviews to ‘graduate’ with a formal postgraduate qualification from the Chinese Academy of Sciences (though I’m still waiting for the certificate).
Little happened in March until the last day of the month when I was finally able to bring the world Zhuchengtyrannus, an event that ran through much of April. Obviously this was incredibly popular as this was a new, large tyrannosaurine. For me though, it was the first dinosaur I’d named as the lead author and well, what a taxon to start with – there’s not to many of them out there. In hindsight it’s also a bit odd given the extensive training in taxonomy and systematics I’d had as a student and the work I’d done on pterosaurs and dinosaurs that I’ve yet to name any pterosaur and it took half a dozen taxa before I got my own dinosaur (as it were).
May saw the publication of my collaboration with the SV-POW crew on the alleged sexual selection of sauropod necks. It was a long process to get it there and after years of working on both it was somewhat annoying and frustrating for it came out just a few months before my most recent paper such that Darren Naish and I had to gazump our own paper and slip some mutual sexual selection commentary into this one. More importantly though it was good to really dig into sexual selection and try and get to grips with the subject and its importance to animal ecology.
I returned to China in June, this time for most of the summer and so June and July saw me in Dublin, London, Beijing, Zhucheng, Urumqi, Osaka, Okayama and Toyko. That meant that I was seeing dozens of specimens, carrying out my first fieldwork in Xinjiang, seeing major exhibits in museums and more. It has produced ammunition for a ton of posts and more importantly, a number of papers, at least a couple of which I hope will be out in 2012.
September was a very mixed month. On the upside, it was my first SVPCA in far too many years and as usual it was a superb meeting and I had the opportunity to catch up with a number of old friends and colleagues and get some important projects moving forwards. On the downside, it marked the end of my contract in Dublin, and for those who didn’t know or missed the hints, I am now unemployed. I realise economics are a bad time for all, but well, academia and especially science in the UK has been hit hard so it’s a terrible time to be job hunting. I’m not out of the game yet, but after 15 years of training, you would kinda hope to have a career at the end of it.
Being back in London did allow me to finally get out to Crystal Palace though and October saw my first ever trip to the historic creations in the park and see them. It was genuinely exciting and they were impressive and interesting in their own right, regardless of their obvious importance to the way dinosaurs were first brought to the public.
November brought another major first, my trip to the US and more specifically the Carnegie in Pittsburgh. I have Mike Habib to thank for his generous hospitality and in supporting my trip out there. This was a great opportunity for me to catch up with Mike and also Matt Lamanna, as well as indulging in the superb exhibition halls and getting down with their pterosaur collections. It was truly a superb week.
And so finally to December. Obviously things calm down here normally, though the appearance of my paper on mutual sexual selection in dinosaurs and pterosaurs was a great way to round of 2011. Started back in 2007 (or even 6 perhaps, I can’t really remember anymore) it’s finally come to fruition and for me it’s a very important piece of work and I’m delighted to have seen it through. Now to get the rest of my unpublished papers published. There’s only a few dozen things need finishing off in 2012….