20 October 2008
Lobbying for Paleontology
Last week was the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology's annual meeting in Cleveland. It was a great conference all around: Cleveland is a much better city than it's made out to be (the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is especially excellent, despite the exorbitant entry fees), there were lots of good presentations, and as always it was great to meet up with old friends and make new ones. I should mention that every member of our lab group presented a talk or poster, and I think (and certainly hope) that we succeeded in our goal of announcing Oregon's return to the world of vertebrate paleontology. My favorite thing about the trip, though? The hotel lobby. Honestly. The conference was held in the Renaissance Hotel, which was built, and the lobby in particular is a throwback to the Gilded Age (an era that was, it must be noted, gilded for paleontologists as well as industrialists; when the Renaissance was built, Henry Fairfield Osborn was presiding over Barnum Brown and Charles R. Knight, and the "Bone Wars" of Marsh and Cope were a recent and palpable memory). One of the points of scientific conferences is to give researchers a chance to discuss their current work with their colleagues, and there is no better atmosphere in which to do so than in marvelously soft couches with the sound of a fountain in the background and vaulted arches overhead (arches with spandrels, appropriately enough for a meeting of evolutionary biologists). It helped that there was an excellent - if expensive - bar built in, complete with Great Lakes microbrews, which provide an exception to the rule that there is no good beer between the coasts (the Oktoberfest and Eliot Ness amber ales are especially nice). Sitting around talking with your friends and colleagues in the Renaissance lobby makes you feel like one of the railroad tycoons or captains of industry the hotel once hosted. Could there be a better place to hold a meeting for people who make a living of living in the past?