So, if you read the previous article, you’ll know that we’re here because Tet Zoo was four years old on January 21st. In that article, I got as far as discussing blog-relevant events that happened up to the end of May or so. Time to crack on…
During June I had a particularly bizarre job – I did a day’s worth of radio interviews on behalf of The Sun newspaper. They were running a promotional event that tied in with the British tour of the Walking With Dinosaurs Live show (incidentally, I was fact-checker for the script of WWD Live when I worked at Impossible Pictures). Felt a bit weird promoting both WWD and The Sun, but it was a nice opportunity to talk to lots of people about dinosaurs, palaeontology and science. Most of the DJs were actually well informed on dinosaurs and also interested in stuff like the evidence for evolution… though I was a bit surprised by the lady who’d never heard of Diplodocus. While at News Group Newspapers HQ I took loads of photos of stuff like Rupert Murdoch’s office and the porn-corner they have at The Sun offices… but I later managed to delete them before downloading, which is a real shame as I would otherwise be sharing them here [assorted Tet Zoo-relevant images above and below: you get Tet Zoo dollars for saying smart or interesting things about them!].
July saw the ‘Sea Dragons of Avalon’ conference. The ball had gotten rolling many, many months previously when I suggested to Jeff Liston that it might be time to think about arranging a festschrift volume for our esteemed colleague Arthur Cruickshank. The idea of a festschrift volume eventually died, but one thing led to another and, with Mike A. Taylor at the helm (aided and abetted by Jeff, Lez Noè and David Hill), we ended up with an excellent Jurassic marine conference held at Street in Somerset (and with field trips to Dorset). As I’ve said before – if you were interested in Jurassic marine reptiles and weren’t there… where were you? In keeping with the Jurassic marine theme, I did the unthinkable in that month and blogged about a non-tetrapod. I know, I know… I’m still trying to scrub off the filth every time I have a shower. But it needed doing.
I tried to keep the amphibian thing going through 2009. The global amphibian crisis hasn’t gone away, and I also wrote about microhylid-spider associations, new salamanders from the USA, and toads toads toads toads toads toads toads toads. Tet Zoo, at last, better reflects tetrapod diversity by now including so many amphibian articles… but there is still so much to do. Even the series introducing all the major anuran clades has yet to be completed.
In July, Channel 4 TV screened the outstandingly good series Inside Nature’s Giants. Inspired and enthused – I mean, were talking about an entire series of programmes devoted to tetrapod anatomy – I ended up writing several articles about the series, and I gushed about it an awful lot. There’s still no news as to whether there will be a second series, but hopefully there will be. A series of articles on mesonychians graced the pages of Tet Zoo during the summer, and the ‘predatory animals are bad’ article brought in a lot of coverage during August. Ducks featured heavily at Tet Zoo during the summer, as is only right. I was filmed as a talking head for some TV series about extinct predators (I spoke about Deinonychus), but don’t know if it’s been screened yet.
In August I attended the Weird Weekend meeting (I go for the cryptozoology) where I gave my talk on the deep-time history of European cats. At the meeting I finished the better part of another paper with Michael Woodley (Cameron McCormick – aka Lord Geekington – is on the authorship too), hung out with Max ‘to the Max’ Blake, and discovered that Clare-Elizabeth Clancy looks (in my opinion) like Cameron* from Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (I can’t believe they cancelled that show… everything I like on TV gets cancelled). Joined Facebook in August. Oooh, the regret. In keeping with the whole amphibian conservation thing, I dug two ponds during August.
* Actress Summer Glau, also in Serenity and various other stuff.
In September, John Conway and I attended the seminar ‘The Evolution of Monsters in the Garden of England’, held at the University of Surrey.
We went because our mutual friend C. M. Kosemen (of Snaiad fame) was meant to be hosting an exhibition and giving a talk, but the less said about all this the better. Anyway, it was good to see Tim Haines again [adjacent pic: me and Tim]. He spoke about the development of ‘Primeval’ and other projects, and there were also talks on H. G. Wells and ‘Quatermass and the Pit’. The discussion afterwards involved feathered dinosaurs, Dougal Dixon’s After Man and all kinds of other stuff.
A somewhat larger meeting – the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology meeting – was held at Bristol, UK, in September: the first time the meeting has ever been held outside of North America. I had a great time, though the several concurrent sessions, long journeys between buildings, and Bristolian topography meant that I only saw a small fraction of the talks I wanted to. I met up with many old friends and met lots of people for the first time ever. Attending David Attenborough’s talk on birds of paradise was a highlight. The question and answer session at the end was spectacular; I mostly say this because I’m always impressed by people who can produce cogent, well crafted, authoritative responses to questions when put ‘on the spot’. Sir David is, evidently, the master at this. Other SVP highlights – this time involving the talks and posters – included the new ichthyosaurs, the news on Tsintaosaurus and Leaellynasaura (errr… wow), the Spanish tapejarid, the data on the postcranium of Simosuchus, and the new giant marabou from Flores. Thanks to Mike P. Taylor and Matt Wedel for helping support my attendance at the meeting. A bunch of us went to Bristol Zoo afterwards, which was cool. Saw Justin Lee-Collins. [Image above, from left to right: Roger Close, Chris Glen, Dave Hone (holding cast of Scipionyx), Cristiano dal Sasso, Darren Naish. John Merck took the photo; thanks John].
Babies and books
The biggest personal event of the year was, of course, the birth of my beautiful little daughter, Emma, in February. It’s hard to believe that she’s going to be a year old in a couple of weeks. Having children (Emma is our second) changes your priorities, your outlook on life, and your approach to humanitarian issues. Or, it changed me in that way anyway. Sounds mushy, but it’s true.
Another big deal for 2009 was the publication of my book The Great Dinosaur Discoveries (A & C Black in the UK; University of California Press in the USA: shown below) (Naish 2009). I’ve authored three books previously (though I also have chapters and small sections in a few others), but this is by far the one I’m happiest with. Ok, so some of the artwork is a bit dated (we had to use Steve Kirk paintings originally produced during the 1980s), and the text had to be pruned hard in a few places, but overall I think it’s pretty good and reviewers have said nice things about it (one example… and another). I have no idea how the book is selling but see indications that things are good. The Great Dinosaur Discoveries is soon to appear in several non-English languages. Another book I was involved in – Dorling Kindersley’s Prehistoric, or Prehistoric Life – came out in October.
Research-wise, a major project on azhdarchoid pterosaurs chugged along in the background for the entire duration of 2009. It meant looking at bird skulls a lot (like auks), err, as well as those of azhdarchoids. An exciting project on tropical big cats began its long gestation during the year… more on this in time. In November, I participated in the ‘Monsters From the Deep!’ conference, hosted by the Centre For Inquiry in London. Talks were by myself, Charles Paxton and Michael Woodley. A write-up of the meeting is due to appear in Fortean Times soon (possibly the next issue); I never got round to discussing the meeting here at Tet Zoo, but I meant to. The ZSL caecilians meeting in December was excellent, but became doubly memorable seeing as Tet Zoo was referred to in one of the talks. More ZSL-related news coming up later this year!
Believe it or don’t, that’s still not all: another birthday article still yet to come. Sorry this sickening navel-gazing is going on for so long, I guess I had a lot to say.
For the previous birthday articles see…
- Happy first birthday Tetrapod Zoology (part I)
- Happy first birthday Tetrapod Zoology (part II)
- Happy second birthday Tetrapod Zoology (part I)
- Tetrapods of 2007 (happy birthday Tet Zoo part II)
- Happy THIRD birthday Tet Zoo
- Tet Zoo = 4 years old today
Ref – –
Naish, D. 2009. The Great Dinosaur Discoveries. A & C Black (London).