Archive for News

SVP Announces Futures Award inaugural winner

The Society of Vertebrate Paleontology is pleased to announce the winner of the first annual Futures Award, Sun Tun. Sun is a rising senior at Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA majoring in Geology and working with Professors Kristi Curry Rogers and Ray Rogers. He was first exposed to and fell in love with geology and paleontology when he took courses on these topics early in his undergraduate degree program, and he credits the professors who taught these courses with showing him that he could have a career in these fields. Through his work, he hopes to make paleontology more accessible to people from underrepresented and underprivileged backgrounds like himself. In addition to geoscience, he is passionate about improving education systems and does paleoart in his free time.

The Futures Award will allow Sun to work full time on the research that will form the basis of his senior honors thesis at Macalester College. More specifically, Sun is investigating diversity in an ancient Cretaceous community preserved in 75 million-year-old rocks from Montana through an analysis of preserved eggshell fragments. So far, he has recovered and studied hundreds of miniscule sub-millimeter-scale pieces of eggshell that preserve a remarkable diversity of egg-laying animals. Capturing this sort of hidden diversity allows him and his collaborators to reconstruct the inner workings of ancient terrestrial ecosystems, and documents the presence of huge egg-laying dinosaurs (including birds), in addition to crocodiles, turtles, and lizards. This work helps to contextualize the nature of terrestrial communities prior to the global mass extinction that ended the Cretaceous Period.

Sun was part of a highly competitive inaugural cohort of Futures Award applicants. The committee decided to award Honorable Mentions to two other applicants, Ana Velasquez at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, USA and Derek Mena Godoy at the University of California, Santa Barbara, USA. SVP is providing free student memberships and free meeting registration to Ana and Derek. In honor of the first year of the Futures Award, two anonymous donors have supported free student memberships for all other applicants from this year’s cycle.

Support the SVP Futures Award!

The Futures Award represents an investment in the future of SVP, and it would not be possible without the support of the many donors who contributed to the initial launch of this award in 2020 and to the Extending the Hammer fundraising campaign in 2019. This campaign is ongoing as we raise funds to fully support this award in perpetuity and expand it to support more undergraduate researchers in future years. Please consider donating to this important new program, which supports summer undergraduate research projects in vertebrate paleontology by students who identify as members of an underrepresented ethnic minority or people of color. Funds provide a competitive stipend and research costs, including travel for fieldwork. The impressive applicant pool for this first year of the Futures Award demonstrates the great need for funding promising student researchers. We were able to fund only one award this year, but with your support, we will be able to expand this award to offer multiple awards in future years. Please donate generously to help us reach our goal of raising $50,000 in 2021 so that we can continue to support and grow this new program, inspire new student researchers, and make our international society more diverse and inclusive.

SVP Sends Letter to Paleontological Community on Myanmar Amber

Based on SVP’s Ad Hoc Myanmar Working Group’s recommendations, SVP sent a LETTER to over 60 paleontological organizations that highlights the ongoing issue in Myanmar and its wider impact, including scientific research, with the following three main points:
  1. The situation in Myanmar has deteriorated significantly, following the 1 February 2021 military coup.
  2. Due to the coup, SVP suggests a hard moratorium on the publication of all fossil specimens in amber obtained from sources in Myanmar after January 2021.
  3. SVP is reviewing its previous moratorium on publication of amber specimens acquired after June 2017 and is in the process of updating guidelines.

SVP hopes that the entire paleontological community will work collaboratively to take any and all actions that might mitigate the violence and human rights abuses in Myanmar. Additional information and resources are available here (see ‘MYANMAR AMBER RESOURCES’).

Besides the SVP Myanmar Working Group, the Executive Committee thanks the SVP’s Business Office as well as the following SVP committees for their assistance on this matter: Communications, Publications, and Government Affairs committees.

SVP Statement on Anti-Asian Violence

SVP condemns the violence, misogyny and racism that has been directed at Asian American and Asian Pacific Islander communities. While vertebrate paleontology has had a history of participation by Asian scholars and scholars of Asian ancestry that is higher than in many branches of geosciences, this still does not reflect the global proportions of individuals with Asian ancestry. This is especially true for representation from those of Asian ancestry living in countries with white privilege.

We recognize that we as a society, like other scientific societies, have failed to grapple with the effects of colonialism, racist immigration policies, and other events and beliefs that have created and reinforced the ongoing structural racism within our discipline. We are trying to rectify that failure and welcome input from both our members and from those outside the society.

We want to do more than offer thoughts and prayers, and want to actively combat structural racism in our society, our field, the scientific community, and globally.  SVP is striving to increase our recruitment of a more diverse membership and reduce barriers to entry into the field for students. We have recently established the FUTURES award for Black, Indigenous, or members of other racial and ethnic minority groups, which will provide $5000 for summer research for a student, and since then we have raised over $40,000 to establish the award. This award joins other awards that support both individual scientists and institutions around the world who face barriers to communication with the global paleontological community and awards for student travel that prioritize economic hardship. During the pandemic, we have worked with members and with those seeking membership to provide affordable membership and meeting solutions.  We are in the process of implementing double-blind peer review for our Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology as studies have shown that there is disparity in the peer review process.

SVP has long had an anti-discrimination statement, but it is clear that we have much work to do to make our field the vibrant, diverse community that reflects the interest that all people have in the fossil record. We need, as a scientific society, to examine our views and behavior and work to make our colleagues safe and feel valued, when doing field work, lab work, public outreach or at our meetings. The members of the Executive Committee and Diversity Committee are continuing to educate ourselves in the ways we can fight white supremacy, and hope all of our members will join us.

We consider harassment, discrimination, bullying or coercive manipulation in any form to be scientific misconduct.  If you experience or witness such behavior, contact the SVP Ethics Officer via safesvp@vertpaleo.org.

Donate to the FUTURES Award

We also recommend this fieldwork safety webinar to learn how to protect at risk researchers in the field.

Some organizations working to fight Anti-Asian racism:

https://www.covidracism.ca/about

Asian Americans Advancing Justice

https://stopaapihate.org

https://www.besean.co.uk

On the Draft Paleontology Law in Peru

The SVP Executive Committee has written to a Peruvian government official to express its full support for the draft law on the Protection of the Paleontological Heritage of Peru. The Executive Committee thanks representatives from the Peruvian paleontology community and SVP Government Affairs Committee for their help drafting and reviewing the letter.

A New JVP Memoir 20 is Published Today

A new JVP memoir 20: Anatomy, Relationships, and Paleobiology of Cambaytherium (Mammalia, Perissodactylamorpha, Anthracobunia) from the lower Eocene of western India is published today. Press Release from Taylor & Francis can be found here.  Press Release from Taylor & Francis can be found here.

Auction of T. Rex “Stan”

SVP has written to the auction house Christie’s New York concerning the high-profile sale of the Tyrannosaurus rex specimen known as STAN.

In recent high-profile auctions of dinosaur specimens such as the sale of an Allosaurus by Aguttes auction house and the sale of an Allosaurus and Camptosaurus by Artcurial auction house, SVP requested that the sale be cancelled and that arrangements be made to put the specimens into the public trust. In the case of STAN the T. rex the situation is more complex and we understand that the sale is the result of a court ruling. In this instance we have requested that Christie’s restrict the sale to bidders from institutions committed to curating specimens for the public good and in perpetuity, or those bidding on behalf of such institutions. You can read the letter here.