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Webb Students Draw Crowds at Annual Paleo Conference

Dr. Andrew Farke
Our students, staff, and faculty have just returned from the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology meeting in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The conference, attended this year by over 1,400 paleontologists and paleontology enthusiasts from around the world, is a prestigious opportunity to share what is happening at Webb and the Alf Museum and also learn about the latest news from our field.
 
Some highlights:
 
- Cathy Yan '19 and Juliana Base '19 presented their poster on the ear anatomy of Hyaenodon, a dog-like animal that lived around 33 million years ago. Co-authored with me and Dr. Matt Borths (Duke Lemur Center), the poster was well attended. A particular highlight was a lengthy and engaging interaction with several researchers whose papers we referenced as part of the project.
 
- Yufei Liu '19 and Olivia Vazquez '19 presented their poster (co-authored with me) on a reconstruction of the keratinous beak in hadrosaur (duckbilled) dinosaurs. This poster drew quite a crowd at times, helped in particular by some fantastic art from Valeria Pellicer (our science illustration intern) that brought the subject to life.
 
- A poster presentation by a colleague from Museum of the Rockies (Bozeman, Montana) focused on the skull of an extinct dog found by a Webb crew several years ago.
 
- Tara Lepore gave a poster presentation highlighting her master's thesis work, on a tyrannosaur coprolite (fossil feces) from Colorado. 
 
- Our collections manager Gabe Santos was particularly busy, on multiple fronts. He co-led a workshop on Science Through Multimedia Stories (with Sara ElShafie of UC Berkeley and former Alf Museum associate Ashley Hall, now at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History), highlighting the role of storytelling in science communication. He also was a discussion leader at the Diversity in Paleontology event, and he also was on two poster presentations. The first (co-authored with Dr. Lars Schmitz of the Claremont Colleges) talked about how students at the Claremont colleges use Alf specimens in one of their anatomy classes. The second (co-authored with Brittney Stoneburg of the Western Science Center) discussed how collaborations between small institutions can maximize their impact in the community.
 
- We acquired a new research fossil replica on the SVP benefit auction--the partial skull of a Parasaurolophus. This is a really nice addition to our collection, and will benefit the research program and our exhibits.
 
It's always neat to see our students engage with the broader research community at these meetings -- I am also grateful to be part of a community that values our students as colleagues who are making substantive contributions to building new knowledge.
 
A big thank you to Dr. Don Lofgren, who was responsible for our student attendees, and a big congratulations to all of our museum folks who took part in the meeting. Thank you also to everyone who supports the museum program in so many ways--this conference was a great experience for our students!
 
Dr. Farke is the Augustyn Family Curator and Director of Research and Collections for the Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology. The Webb Schools is the only high school in the world with an accredited museum of paleontology on its campus. Learn more here: www.alfmuseum.org
 
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