Meeting the Urvogel

Greetings from Deutschland! I’ve returned from the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology annual meeting in Berlin. Here’s a couple of snapshots from the Museum fur Naturkunde, where the welcome reception was held last week. Giraffatitan (nee Brachiosaurus) brancai supervised the shenanigans in the main entrance hall.

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What I Did on My Summer Vacation: Fine Feathered Friends

The Royal Alberta Museum is also currently hosting a temporary exhibit on the use of feathers in hat-making (millinery!) and fashion, called Fashioning Feathers. I’m not usually all that into the history of costume and fashion in museums, and so I was pleasantly surprised by how interesting I found this particular exhibit. I think it was the intersection of biology and fashion that was so neat.

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Care of Magical Creatures

The University of Alberta is currently hosting an exhibit called Harry Potter’s World: Renaissance Science, Magic, and Medicine, in the John W. Scott Health Sciences Library. Let’s Talk Science, a Canadian science outreach organization with a U of A chapter, was asked to organize ‘classes’ for a Harry Potter-themed science day, so my good friend Scott Persons and I put together “Care of Magical Creatures”. You may think it would be hard to mix magic and mythology with science, but we were pretty happy with how much natural history education we were able to convey over the course of the day. For those interested in science outreach and education, here’s how to do your own Care of Magical Creatures class. You might be surprised by the results!

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Birds at the Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales

After finishing up with the dinosaur hall at the Buenos Aires natural history museum, I was pleasantly surprised to find more dinosaurs when I headed upstairs. I can’t recall a time where I’ve actually seen dinosaurs in the bird gallery – often the dinosaur story ends with the origin of birds, but when the birds are on display it’s usually more about extant bird diversity and conservation. So it was really nice to see the origin of birds explained right at the very beginning of this exhibit. Continue reading

Name That Specimen, Smithsonian Edition

The fossil halls at the Smithsonian were great fun, but do you know what might have been my next most favourite hall? The Hall of Bones! I am not sure I have ever seen so many non-mammal skeletons on display. I also liked how a lot of the displays highlighted anatomy and functional morphology. The whole thing was just deliciously old-school museum in all the best ways: detailed, focused, and elegantly presented. In a way it was like stepping into a 3-dimensional anatomy textbook, but more fun because here are the bones right in front of you that you can see from all kinds of different angles, and compare easily.

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The winter term draws to a close, the fossils come out of hiding one last time.

We are very fortunate at the University of Alberta to offer several courses in Palaeontology (and not just through zoology or biology – they get their own PALEO course code). PALEO 418 and 419 cover vertebrate palaeontology in lecture and lab format, PALEO 414 focuses more on invertebrate paleontology and functional morphology, and PALEO 400 is a field school held right in Edmonton at the Danek hadrosaur bonebed. Continue reading