So You Want to Make a Time-Calibrated Phylogenetic Tree

Are you a palaeontologist interested in incorporating phylogenetic comparative methods into your research? Would you like to increase your toolkit of hypothesis-testing analyses for fossil-related questions? There’s a pretty good chance you’re going to need a time-calibrated phylogenetic tree. And to get one, you’re going to need to try your hand at R.

If you’re new to R programming or phylogenetic comparative methods, it can seem like a pretty steep uphill battle to learn some of these techniques, especially if you don’t feel like you got a great grounding in programming or statistics as an undergrad. Nevertheless, there are great resources out there for learning the basics of moving around in R (I like this one but I also just google things a lot), and good resources on phylogenetic comparative methods and statistical methods in biology. Today I’m going to do my best to make a bit of a tutorial for an important R package, paleotree (David Bapst), which will make magical time-calibrated trees for you that you can then use for all kinds of wonderful analyses. Continue reading

Evolution at the Zoo

Zoos, aquaria, and natural history museums all showcase amazing biological diversity in their exhibits, but after years of visiting both kinds of institutions across the globe, I’ve noticed that zoos emphasize different messages than natural history museums. Natural history museums are great at telling the story of evolution, and explaining the science behind evolutionary biology, through exhibits based on palaeontology and biodiversity. Museums do a great job of explaining the role of extinction in shaping diversity in the past, and modern exhibit renewals are often doing a great job of linking changes in Earth’s history to the changes we see around us today.

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SVP in SLC

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This year’s SVP in Salt Lake City was chock full of exciting dino stuff. My first visit to the Natural History Museum of Utah since its move to a brand-new building (I last visited in December 2008, just prior to its move) during the conference’s opening reception was a real treat. Utah has such a great fossil record for dinosaurs, and it was awesome to see new takes on old classics like this Ceratosaurus – take note of the osteoderms running down the midline of the spine! Continue reading

Your Project is Good Enough for a Talk

I’m back from yet another whirlwind week of conferencing, since the annual Society of Vertebrate Paleontology meeting (this year in scenic Salt Lake City) just wrapped up last weekend. I’ll share some photos of the conference and welcome reception at the Utah Museum of Natural History soon, but today I’d like to talk a bit about who is giving talks at SVP and how we can increase speaker diversity. I hope you will share this with your colleagues and students! Continue reading

Rhinos and dinos and whales, oh my!

A few weeks ago I took a road trip down to visit the smaller Arbour sibling who is currently based at the University of Washington, and we made a point of visiting the Burke Museum on campus. The museum is about to be on the move, so in a couple of years this post will be out of date – despite it getting some shiny new digs in the near future, it’s still a pretty impressive museum for a university campus, and it has some unique treasures! Let’s get to it!

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Save Mongolia’s Dinosaurs!

Hello blog friends! Today I’d like to highlight an important funding campaign that needs your help: Save Mongolia’s Dinosaurs! This campaign is organized by Bolortsetseg Minjin and Thea Boodhoo through the Institute for the Study of Mongolian Dinosaurs; you may have encountered Bolor’s name during the episode involving the Tarbosaurus auction in New York a few years ago, as she was the palaeontologist who initiated the investigation around the provenance of that specimen. Her actions helped lead to the repatriation of that specimen back to Mongolia. She does important work and is a palaeontologist you should know and support!

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A Geology Road Trip through North Carolina: Part 3, Barrier Islands

Well it took way longer to get to the third and final part of this little post series, but I guess that’s what happens when you’re moving ‘internationally’ while preparing for a conference. C’est la vie! Let’s get to it:

North Carolina’s coast is almost completely framed by a series of barrier islands called the Outer Banks. In a sense, NC gets *two* coastlines – the coastline opening onto the sounds enclosed by the barrier islands, and the coast that opens onto the angry angry Atlantic Ocean.

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A Geology Road Trip through North Carolina: Part 2, the Piedmont

Next up on our NC geology road trip, we’re stopping on the Piedmont. A big swath of central North Carolina is represented by this physiographic region, which basically equates to the foothills of the Appalachians. I think I have made some people very confused when I’ve pronounced this in the French way that it looks to me, damn my Canadian upbringing, but apparently it sounds like PEEEEEEED-monT.

This is going to be a bit of a metaphorical road trip stop because most of the middle of North Carolina looks like this:

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