Don't you hate it when your family or friends (provided you have friends) want to tell you all about their vacation and meticulously show you every last picture? It's like, jeez, no one cares about what you did on your trip. Anyway here's a post on a trip had by your two favorite writers for this blog, Connor and Brenden (that's me). It took some crazy plans, some last-minuet tickets, and a spirit of adventure to have us two meet up.
So what the heck am I getting at?
The 2013 edition
Our adventure begins in a hobbit hole. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat. It was a hobbit hole, and that means- GAH wait, wrong scroll.
OUR adventure begins with a museum; the Burpee Museum of Natural History of Rockford, Illinois. It wasn't a very large museum, nor was it much renown. But it was just enough to be lovable, and held some of the most outstanding displays I've yet lay eyes on. From sparkly geodes on the second floor, to a giant Imperial Mammoth that stood right where you first walk in.
One plane ride from Florida and a good 4 hours of sleep later (in which I daringly plunged into the freezing cold of Illinois), and a 45-minuet's worth drive for Connor, we met up at Brupee. It was the 15th annual Paleofest, a friendly congregating of paleontologists, paleoartists, and paleonerds (Just like you!). Walking into the museum, one of the first exhibitions was an awesome carboniferous forest display. Considering that the entire thing fit into one tall room, it was pretty neat how much detail was applied to it. Even the lights were lowered, allowing for that sort of eerie vibe you'd expect from a primordial forest. On top of that, every few minuets there would be a "thunderstorm". The lights would dim and you'd hear the sounds of rain falling.
|We met up right under that giant mammoth with a traditional Water Tribe arm-clasp handshake.|
|The longer you looked at it, the more little things you'd start to notice.|
Of course this picture doesn't capture much.
|Yes you are very beautiful too, Mr. Eryops.|
|Can you imagine this thing popping up out of a log right in front of you? Sheesh.|
|Obligatory allosaurus skull.|
|It's a bird. It's a plane. It's a fish. It's a tank.|
I don't even know how to label this thing, it's Dunkleosteus.
Forward we trekked, across the high mountains and through the freezing winters (which was all really just a hallway). We then arrived at the room of Jane, the fabled juvenile Tyrannosaurus. The entire exhibit was titled Jane; The Diary of a Dinosaur, and took place in a large room with all sorts of tyrannosaurus-related things.
|Jane is basically the Holy Grail of the town of Rockford.|
|Yes I get it, "Diary of Jane" is a song. Ha ha ha shut up already.|
|Tyler Keillor's outstanding restoration of Jane. Legend has it that he slayed the|
|Look hard in the background, and you can catch a glimpse of a majestic Connor, curiously|
observing it's environment. It was startled at the sight of my camera and proceeded
to prance away, faceplanting into a wall shortly after.
Our adventure then took to the second floor, to the Geoscience displays. Not much time was spent up here, but it held a fantastic assortment of geodes and minerals of all sorts. Along with that, you could look down at the lower floor and throw rocks at people. They never expect an attack from above.
(I'm only kidding of course, you should never throw rocks at people. It is messy, mean, and probably illegal in some countries.)
|Fluorite can do anything. Even make your teeth sparkly.|
|The Pterygotus have evolved to flight. NO ONE IS SAFE.|
|Learn something new every day.|
Now we move to the top floor, which primarily focuses on North American wildlife and early man. It even touched on some Native American culture that I found really interesting. Toward the front of the room was a larger section that held some live (and dead) animals, and a bit of interactive media. Fittingly it was titled "Windows to the Wilderness" (funny because it was right next to a giant window).
|"Ey sis', check this squirrel I just killed out."|
|This array of archaic arrowheads and hunting tools was just awesome.|
|A western fox snake, one of the local ratsnakes found in Illinois.|
|Redear sunfish and a bass.|
|What more is there to be said about this picture other than that we are professional idiots.|
Alright now the moment you've all been waiting for; the lectures. Unfortunately because there were a lot more than usual (over 30 to be exact), the talks were all shorter than in previous years. About 20 minuets for each speaker. We walked in on Nathan Carroll of the Montana State University's discussion on Champanian and Maastrichtian Pterosaur diversity. Following Nathan's lecture came some other fantastic talks, all focusing on Late Cretaceous morphology (after all, the symposium was titled, "Changes in the Late Cretaceous Biosphere). One that I thought particularly stood out was Michael J. Everhard of the Sternberg Museum of Natural History's lecture on Mosasaurs. Michael really emphasized (and this I never quite realized beforehand) just how massive the beasts got over time, primarily towards the Campanian and Maastrichtian stages. Another point brought up was their generally short reign, as mosasaurs were only around for a good 35 million years.
After the lectures wrapped up, we got a few signatures (Thomas Holtz signed my copy of The Hobbit. Just thought I should put that out there), had a great conversation with Tyler Keillor at the mixer, bought some things in the gift shop (when you see two teenagers critically evaluating the dinosaur toys in a museum gift shop, you know they mean business), went out for dinner, traveled back to hotel, ruthlessly beat eachother up with pillows, embarked on an adventure, went night night, then remembered that there was a second day.
The lectures on the second day brought some more familiar names. Scott Sampson, Thomas Holtz, Philip Currie, Steve Brusatte, and several more. Dr. Holtz brought up some fantastic points on the "childhood" stages of tyrannosaurids. In his lecture, he made mention of how the juvenile stages of tyrannosaurs were generally long, around ten years or so, and how the younger animals played a different niche in the environment than the adults. The little guys holding the rank of primary mid-sized predators. And just to put the icing on the primordial cake, Dr. Holtz gave Connor and I a shout-out at the very end of his lecture (we joked how amazing it was that he didn't need to file a restraining order on us). Now we can die happy.
|One of Dr. Holtz's opening slides.|
For you fellow paleofreaks out there, if you ever do get the chance, don't miss out on the next Paleofest. Grab a buddy, hop on a plane, and get your butt down/up there. If it's dinosaurs, fossils, auctions and adventure you seek, Paleofest is nothing short of it. And ah, for those of you coming from the south, do bring a jacket.
|From the Burpee Museum Facebook page. If you find us, you'll receive a virtual kiss on the cheek.|