Is it just me, or was 2017 a tough year for everyone?
For me, it wasn’t all bad. But, I am confident that this year is going to be much better than the last. To start 2018 off the right way, I have put together a list of nine zoological things I am really looking forward to this year. Enjoy!
1) TetZooCon 2018
You may have already read my review of last year’s Tetrapod Zoology Convention, an annual event for zoology nerds filled with talks, an art workshop and even a quiz! This year promises to be even bigger and better than the last. TetZoo master Darren Naish recently announced that this year’s schedule is already packed with a themed session and paleoart workshop, and the event will last not one, but TWO DAYS.
ZOOLOGICAL EXCITEMENT MOUNTING.
2) PhD Fieldwork
I am lucky that for a few months of the year (April to June), I get to carry out fieldwork as part of my PhD project. This fieldwork is conducted at the university field station, the Scottish Centre for Ecology and the Natural Environment (SCENE), on the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond, where we have a network of no less than 300 nestboxes within an old oak forest. Each year, our team monitor breeding activity of the birds nesting in our boxes, from nest building to egg laying and hatching, to chick rearing and fledging. As part of my PhD, I monitor specifically the nesting activity of our resident Great Tits, and carry out experiments aimed at answering questions relating to circadian (daily) rhythms of behaviour, gene activity and health of these birds.
Last year’s field season wasn’t great for me, as I had broken my ankle so, uh… I couldn’t actually do the fieldwork myself (shout out to Paul and dog Ben who were my legs for last year)! So, this year, I am excited to get involved in the regular nestbox checks, and I am hoping to share some of this with you via Instagram nearer the time 😉
3) International Ornithology Congress 2018, Vancouver
One great part of being in academia is being able to attend conferences, where scientists working in a particular field group come together to essentially nerd out, presenting and sharing ideas and recent discoveries. This year in August, bird nerds from AROUND THE WORLD are coming together for a once-in-four-yearly meeting in Vancouver, for the International Ornithological Congress 2018. I am excited about this for six reasons.
- I get to go to Canada
- I get to see all my European bird nerd friends again
- I get to meet other bird nerds from the Americas
- I am submitting an abstract to present my PhD research… Fingers crossed that it gets accepted!
- I get to see talks from avian researchers around the world, including the experts in my particular niche field of circadian clocks. There’s even a session on BIRD AND DINOSAUR EVOLUTION.
- I will be coming to the end of my PhD at that time, so will be scouting for opportunities for the next step in my career!
4) Timothy Pond Animal Illustration
After about 600 years of neglecting my interest in drawing, I have recently picked up the pencils again. There are some truly fantastic artists and illustrators over on Twitter who have inspired me to pursue art again, but one who has caught my eye is Timothy Pond. I am a huge fan of his lively animal drawings, and am very excited to see his upcoming book on animal illustration! From the sneak-peeks Timothy has already posted, the book promises to be an amazing resource for those wanting to refine their skills in animal illustration.
5) Mark Witton’s Palaeoartists’ Handbook
Mark Witton is a palaeontologist and freelance artist, and this year (I hope!!!) he will be releasing his much anticipated “Paleoartists’ Handbook”. As a complete newbie to the palaeoart world, I am excited to see tips from one of the most established artists in the field. Also because the palaeoart community are pretty passionate if you get anything wrong ;-)!
This book promises to be around the length of a PhD thesis and will discuss pitfalls and shortcomings of the current state of palaeoart. Check out Mark’s Twitter feed (@MarkWitton) for updates on his book, and his other palaeoart projects!
6) Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)
Mark will probably hate me for adding this section in right after a bit on his book, BUT truthfully I am excited about the upcoming release of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (22nd June 2018). The film may be fantastically inaccurate (cue Chris Pratt successfully outrunning a pyroclastic flow, and dinosaurs roaring, quote Darren Naish: “like a million lions”), however, there is an appearance from Jeff Goldblum, whom I think you will agree is getting better with age (you fine wine, Jeff) and scary dino monsters. Nostalgia at its best.
Join the Tetrapod Zoology Facebook group if you’re interested in discussions relating to Jurassic World’s (in)accuracies!
7) Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (2018)
As someone who grew up with the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and a general fan of fantasy-fiction, I loved the first Fantastic Beasts movie featuring British wizard and magi-zoologist Newt Scamander. Although the creatures depicted in the film were of course fantasy, I really liked how this movie gave us an appreciation for nature through Newt. Wildlife writer Peter Cooper posted a discussion on his blog about films such as these, and how blockbusters and conservation can go together.
The second instalment in the series, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, is due to be released this year (16th November). I’m looking forward to finding out more about the mysterious relationship between the dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald and Albus Dumbledore, and to see more magical creatures from the original Fantastic Beasts book appearing in the film!
8) Attenborough’s Birds of Paradise and Natural World: Biggest Birds (BBC Two)
This year, the BBC is releasing two avian themed nature documentaries! The first, “Attenborough’s Birds of Paradise” will feature David Attenborough telling the story of how birds of paradise were discovered, how they have captivated naturalists, artists and royalty for centuries, and will provide insight into the evolution and behaviour of these stunning birds.
The second documentary will be part of the BBC’s Natural World series, and will focus on the ratites – flightless birds such as ostriches, emus and kiwis, and the magnificent extinct elephant bird of Madagascar. This documentary will trace the evolution of these birds in an attempt to answer the question: Why can’t these birds fly?
9) Nature Explorers Group
Late last year, I joined up as a volunteer for an RSPB reserve, helping out with monthly “nature explorer” sessions for kids age 5-13. So far this term, we have run sessions on broad topics such as rainforests, slugs and snails and fungi, and it has been fun! Next month, I am going to be organising a session about dinosaurs. This was announced at the last meeting, and one kid stood up and shouted: “YESSSSS!!!! FINALLLYYYYY!!!” whilst flailing his arms in the air.
Safe to say, I think this year is going to be fun.
What zoological events/books/STUFF are you excited about in 2018?