by Sarah Sheffield (@sarah-sheffield)
Conferences are always an excellent chance to catch up with old friends and colleagues, learn about novel research in the field, and make new connections to take your research into exciting, new directions. NAPC was no exception, but because of support from the FOSSIL Project, I used the opportunity to communicate with a broad range of collaborators not typically present at scientific meetings, especially those collaborators from the avocational community. I presented in the Two to Tango session- my talk (which you can watch on my YouTube channel) was focused on the numerous avocational/professional collaborations from which echinoderm paleobiology has benefitted. I was able to connect with more people, who knew something I didn’t know about their local echinoderm fossils and I am positive that more scientific knowledge will come from these meetings. I was able to plan out papers to write in the near future with coauthors, meet established faculty in paleobiology to give advice on research and teaching methods, and meet with a huge number of undergraduate and graduate students, who will drive new research and teaching methods for decades to come.
As a new assistant professor, starting in Fall 2019, I was especially grateful to have the opportunity to make these connections, as I will be looking for talented students to work with me in the near future. I want to thank the FOSSIL Project, sincerely, for making sure that attending this meeting was a possibility to so many of us who may not have been able to attend without this support.