My first ever visit to Dallas was a wonderful experi- ence, both paleontologically-speaking and personal- ly-speaking. I found it very fitting that I travelled to the area for two fossil-related events during Nation- al Earth Science Week and, in the process, learned about how Texas celebrates National Fossil Day. Talk about perfect timing to visit one of the best states for fossil collecting!
The first event was the mini conference that FOSSIL co-hosted with the Dallas Paleontological Society. As the coordinator of the FOSSIL Project and the point-person for much of the mini conference plan- ning, I can honestly say that it was a pleasure working with such a great group of people at DPS, including but not limited to Rocky Manning, Lee Higginbotham, Roger Farish, Pam Lowers, Polly Mullinex, and Rodney Wise. It was a very successful event, with representatives from 10 different fossil societies/clubs in attendance. Approximately 45 people came to the mini conference activities on Monday, October 12, where we had a townhall discussion on legislation affecting fossil collection, a presentation on National Fossil Day (with a Texas focus!), a reveal of the new myFOSSIL community website, and breakout sessions covering topics ranging from social media usage to education/ outreach to citizen science in paleontology. Of course, the highlight of Monday’s activities was the
evening keynote lecture entitled “Birds as Feathered Dinosaurs” presented by Dr. Paul Sereno from the University of Chicago. Dr. Sereno was a very charismatic and engaging speaker, and it was ex- citing to see so many adult and youth members of DPS absorbing knowledge and enthusiasm from this world-renowned paleontologist.
On the second day of the mini conference, Tuesday, October 13, I got to participate in a terrific field trip to Lake Jacksboro and to Mineral Wells Fossil Park. Mark McKenzie of DPS did a great job of explaining the local geology and stratigraphy to the field trip goers throughout the bus ride. Lisa Lundgren (FOSSIL Project graduate student), Sean Moran (FOSSIL Project associate), and myself had a lot of fun collecting Pennsylvanian aged fossils at the Jacksboro site. We were a little less excited about the scorpion molt that we stumbled upon, however! Later, after a quick episode of “Will the bus get stuck in this parking lot?,” we ate lunch (thanks, Roger!) and headed out to Mineral Wells Fossil Park. There, we participated in a fun official ribboncutting ceremony and looked for invertebrate material in the landfill borrow pit that defines the park. I was hoping to find a trilobite pygidium, but only Sean lucked out in that regard. Overall, it was a great day full of fossils, sunshine, new friends, and new knowledge.
Lisa Lundgren (FOSSIL Project graduate student) displays a Pentaridi- ca crinoid columnal found at Mineral Wells Fossil Park.
The rest of my time spent in Dallas was at the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology’s 75th annual meeting. We started out the meeting with a fantastic welcoming reception at the Perot Museum of Nature & Science; I was thoroughly impressed with the quality of the exhibits and would recommend this museum to anyone visiting Dallas. Throughout the conference, I was able to catch up with old friends and colleagues, meet new people (from undergraduate students to world-famous professionals such as Jack Horner), and learn about exciting paleontological research through the oral and post- er presentations. One particularly neat presentation reported upon a giant 300-million-year-old ‘Texas supershark’ discovered in the Jacksboro area (read more here: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/ giant-supershark-lived-before-the-dinosaurs-found-in-texas/). Another fascinating presentation de- scribed the biomechanics of how sauropod dinosaurs such as Diplodocus used the muscles around their neck bone spines to pump blood up the length of their long necks (read more here: http:// www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/how- long-necked-dinosaurs-pumped-blood-their-brains- 180957011/?noist). As an avian bone taphonomy enthusiast myself, I was of course excited to learn about new advances in avian paleontology, such as the discovery of a new species of Enantiornithine bird from China (read more here: http:// journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/ journal.pone.0126791).
Overall, my trip to Dallas was excellent and definitely fossiliferous! I sincerely thank the DPS officers and members for their help, organization skills, and hospitality in co-hosting the October 2015 mini con- ference with the FOSSIL Project. You all made us feel at home. I hope to visit Dallas again soon and to explore other fascinating fossil sites! I’d also like to invite all DPS members to check out the FOSSIL Project at www.myfossil.org and to consider joining the myFOSSIL community at http://community.myfossil.org.