by Adriane Lam (@adriane-lam)
Vertebrates: let’s face it, they tend to steal the show when it comes to paleontology. They’ve enraptured the imaginations of children and adults for decades with their large teeth, ferocious portrayals, and dramatic dioramas featured in many a museum. Regardless of having a much less complete fossil record than invertebrates or microfossils, vertebrate fossils have a huge following at conferences, on social media, and in the entertainment industry. At NAPC, I was thrilled to find this common theme becoming, well, more uncommon! My experience at NAPC was littered with intense talks, posters, and discussions on invertebrate evolutionary patterns, conservation practices gleamed from the fossil record, and using the fossil record to tell time. Most importantly, there were TONS of data sets using microfossils to answer regional and large-scale macro- and microevolutionary questions through geologic time. I myself am a microfossil paleontologist and was thrilled to learn what new projects my friends, collaborators, and colleagues were up to.
Through generous funds from the FOSSIL Project, I was able to connect with people I had only interacted with on social media platforms, meet new friends and collaborators, and touch base with current collaborators. I gave two presentation at NAPC: the first was a poster presentation of my dissertation chapters on planktic foraminiferal biogeography and received wonderful encouragement and feedback from other scientists in my field. The second was a talk in an educational session on how my and my colleague’s education website, specifically posts written by avocational scientists, reaches a global audience. This latter presentation was given in the Two to Tango session, and as I watched the talks, I was amazed at all the great science avocational paleontologists are up to! But one of the coolest things I participated in at NAPC was the K-12 Teacher STEM Workshop. I gave an overview of foraminifera to the teachers, where I waxed and waned about the beauty and utility of the calcareous tests created by single-celled protists. My colleague and collaborator, Jen Bauer, then showed the teachers how they could use 3D scans of foraminifera in the classroom to teach students about evolution and paleoceanography. My time at NAPC was amazing, and I owe this experience to the FOSSIL Project; so thank you to all who made my trip possible, and for letting me bring the plankton power to the educator’s workshop!