Podium Symposia (invited participants only)

Podium Symposia will be presented in the following topics:

Conservation Paleobiology: Insights into Modern Ecosystems from Vertebrate Records
Co-Convenors: Larisa R. G. DeSantis and Joshua H. Miller


Biological communities worldwide are experiencing ecological perturbations due to rapid climate change, habitat fragmentation, and over-exploitation.  However, a general paucity of multi-decadal, multi-generational studies of biological systems limits our ability to accurately track ecological changes, evaluate the magnitude and significance of recent perturbations, and establish conservation and remediation goals that incorporate dynamics from past decades, centuries, millennia, and deep-time.  Biological data available from bone and fossil records offer critical foundations for understanding ecosystem ecology, establishing baselines for evaluating modern wildlife populations, and aiding conservation and management planning. The developing field of conservation paleobiology uses data from historic and prehistoric specimens to more fully understand the potential consequences of recent environmental stressors on living organisms and their ecosystems.  Additionally, deep-time data can be used to test assumptions critical to modeling biotic responses to climate change. To date, conservation paleobiology and its relevance to modern ecology has been disproportionately championed and explored by invertebrate paleontologists. The vertebrate record, however, is also of great importance to modern conservation and offers important data on long-term ecological and evolutionary responses to climate change, habitat fragmentation, extinctions, and other issues important to modern ecosystems. 


This symposium highlights current research in the developing field of conservation paleobiology - one that concentrates on the unique perspectives of vertebrate records. Presenters will focus on vertebrate records across a variety of times-scales (101 – 107 years) using diverse analytical approaches (e.g., geochemistry, species niche modeling, community ecological modeling). The symposium will also focus on best practices for communicating among different stakeholders and integrating historical and fossil data within conservation, management, industry, and public policy. Overarching topics and techniques include ecological responses to climate and environmental change, macroevolutionary and extinction dynamics, spatial ecology/species distribution modeling, quantitative paleoecology and community change, functional ecology, isotope geochemistry, and taphonomy. We look forward to hosting a session at the 75th Annual SVP meeting highlighting the important contributions available from vertebrate records for understanding modern ecosystems and aiding conservation.

The Shape of things to Come: Geometric Morphometrics in Vertebrate Paleontology
Co-Convenors: Marc E. H. Jones, Emma Sherratt, and Akinobu Watanabe

Morphological data represent the core of paleontological studies from which paleontologists generate taxonomic, evolutionary, and functional inferences. A century after D’Arcy Thompson wrote the seminal book On Growth and Form in 1915 (published in 1917), which transformed the way morphologists view biological form, geometric morphometrics (GMM) has become a widely adopted method for quantifying and analyzing the shape of organisms and their structures. The integration of GMM data with multivariate statistics and phylogenetic comparative methods make it a particularly powerful and versatile technique for tackling biological questions related to shape. Recently, the proliferation of available software for collecting, analyzing, and visualizing shape data, especially in 3-D, has driven this revolution in GMM. Beyond morphological characterizations of specimens, GMM also provides particularly useful applications for paleontology, including missing data estimation and ancestral reconstruction, as well as retro-deformation of taphonomically distorted specimens. As GMM methods become more widely used among paleontologists, familiarity with the method and awareness of its benefits and limitations are critical.


As the first SVP symposium dedicated to GMM methods, the symposium will (1) provide, by example, the core concepts of GM and its advantages over classical characterizations of morphology; (2) highlight advancements in software and methods pertinent to paleontological investigations (e.g., missing data, retro-deformation, functional morphology); and (3) address important limitations associated with the collection and analysis of GM data, particularly with fossils, and identify possible solutions. Both the platform and associated poster sessions will feature a diverse array of topics related to shape analysis presented by an international group of morphometricians. Due to the range of topics covered, the symposium will appeal to attendees with various expertise and interests, including scientists experienced in GMM, those wishing to use GMM for the first time, and others simply wanting greater familiarity with the approach. We envision that the Symposium, a century after the writing of On Growth and Form, will stimulate further growth and advancements in investigating morphological form in vertebrate paleontology.

Advances in Mid-Cretaceous Paleoecology: Understanding a Major Terrestrial Transition
Co-Convenors: Lindsay Zanno, Christopher Noto, and Anthony R. Fiorillo

At first glance, Cretaceous fossil vertebrate assemblages appear to be among the most densely sampled and most comprehensively understood in the world. Yet closer inspection reveals that our knowledge of Cretaceous terrestrial ecosystems is heavily skewed toward the close of the Early and Late Cretaceous intervals—leaving a substantial gap in our understanding of “mid-Cretaceous” ecosystems on multiple spatial scales. The dramatic difference in taxonomic content, trophic structure, and disparity between the open and close of the Cretaceous has spurred a variety of hypotheses invoking upheaval across the tectonic, climatic, and biotic landscapes. However, quantitative assessments of mid-Cretaceous ecosystem evolution are rare and generally suffer from poor taxonomic sampling. The past two decades have seen a proliferation of new discoveries that have not only expanded the cast of characters, but redefined the dynamics of this poorly known interval. Today, there is a growing recognition that piecing together the taxonomic and ecological changes throughout this time requires a synthetic, interdisciplinary approach.


This symposium is dedicated to the latest advances in mid-Cretaceous research, with a focus on the plethora of new taxonomic discoveries and advanced research on the evolutionary tempo of this interval across the bio-/geosphere at a variety of spatiotemporal scales. The symposium will present new data on the taxonomic, biogeographic, and ecologic patterns of the Aptian-Santonian, providing comprehensive reconstructions of terrestrial ecosystems throughout this time. It will bring together researchers working on a wide spectrum of vertebrate groups, as well as specialists in paleoclimate, Cordilleran tectonics, and paleoflora. Symposium participants will be organized around two central themes: 1) Patterns of taxonomic, biogeographic, and ecological change in the terrestrial fauna and 2) The changing backdrop of climatic, tectonic, and floral conditions.


The broader aim of this symposium is to build a collaborative framework for gathering, integrating, and interpreting the vast array of data necessary for studying this and similar periods of dramatic change. Dallas is a nexus of mid-Cretaceous research expertise and is proximal to an extensive series of mid-Cretaceous formations with accessible outcrops and active excavations. This together with an emerging paleontological record that captures several unique mid-Cretaceous assemblages in north central Texas and in nearby southwestern states makes Dallas an ideal backdrop for hosting a symposium on this important interval in Earth history.

Poster Symposium (invited participants only)


Insights from 3D-Imaging Based Analyses of Carnivoramorphans and their Relatives: Systematics, Sinuses and Sabertooths.
Co-Convenors: Camille Grohé, MIchelle Spaulding, and Z. Jack Tseng

Techniques and methodologies that digitally capture three-dimensional (3D) information of fossils and extant specimens have become an integral and exciting part of current research in vertebrate paleontology. Over the past 10 years or so, advances in the computational capability of personal electronics and the affordability of 3D imaging instrumentation and related softwares (i.e., Computed Tomography facilities, 3D laser surface scanners, 3D photogrammetry and 3D-printing technologies) have permitted faster and more efficient 3D acquisition of biological and paleontological data for visualization and analysis of new morphological information. With this symposium we would like to highlight how these advances provide vertebrate paleontologists new tools to enhance the study of their respective taxonomic groups, using carnivoramorphans and their close relatives as exemplars, and to demonstrate the utility of 3D methods in aiding collection management, public exhibitions, and student training.


This symposium will focus on developments of 3D based analyses of placental carnivorous mammals (Carnivoramorpha) and their close relatives. Rapidly after their first appearance in the Paleocene of North America, different carnivoramorphan clades emerged and experienced repeated diversification bursts through the Cenozoic. This excellent study group now represents an extremely rich source of modern biodiversity coupled with a tremendously diverse fossil record, and also are an essential guild component in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. A diverse group of specialists from the international community will provide examples of the latest insights on the systematics and paleoecology of various extant families of carnivorans as well as extinct hyaenodontids and basal carnivoramorphans. The emphasis is on the improving understanding of phylogenetical relationships, functional anatomy and sensory capabilities based on cranial and postcranial digital data. In addition to highlighting key 3D imaging methods and the research questions they help address, there also will be contributions that highlight 3D-based software programs for educational and research purposes.


We trust that this symposium will be of interest not only to carnivoramorphan researchers, but also the broader SVP community. Our over-arching goal in organizing the symposium is to point out the accessibility and efficiency of 3D imaging data acquisition and analysis for the exploration of new anatomical information and a better understanding of macro-evolutionary process in diverse taxonomic groups. SVP Dallas also provides a very appropriate and timely host location for this symposium as the first scientific publications exploring CT-based 3D-imaging applications on paleontological specimens came out of the largest NSF-funded scanning facility, located in Austin, Texas.


SVP Program Committee

If you have questions regarding the program, your presentation or abstract, check the SVP website or contact the SVP Program Co-Chairs:


Dave Evans, Co-Chair
Royal Ontario Museum, Canada


Mary Silcox, Co-Chair
University of Toronto, Canada

Heather Ahrens
Johns Hopkins, USA
Christian Kammerer
Museum Für Naturkunde,
Brian Beatty
New York College of Osteopath Medicine, USA
Amber MacKenzie
University of Toronto
Jonathan Bloch
Florida Museum of Natural History
Erin Maxwell
University of Alberta, Canada
Dr. Martin Brazeau
Imperial College London
Josh Miller
University of Cincinnati, USA
Chris Brochu
University of Iowa, USA
Jessica Miller-Camp
University of Iowa, USA
Richard Butler
University of Birmingham, UK
butler.richard.j@gmail. com
Kevin Padian
University of California, USA
Dr. Darin Croft
Case Western Reserve University
Lauren Sallan
University of Michigan, USA
Ted Daeschler
Acacdemy of Natural Sciences, USA
William Sanders
University of Michigan, USA
David Fox
University of Minnesota, USA
Michelle Stocker
Virginia Polytechnic Institute, USA
Anjali Goswami
Univeristy College London
Paul Upchruch
University College London, UK
Pat Holroyd
University of California, USA
Aaron Wood
Florida Musuem of Natural History, USA
Marc Jones
The University of Adelaide, Australia


For further information please contact the SVP Meeting Management office at meetings@vertpaleo.org.

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