From John Hutchinson:
Thank you again to the Carl Gans Fun for the support of our first European regional meeting of the Division of Vertebrate Morphology of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, held at the Natural History Museum (historic Flett Theatre) in London on 10 May 2018. We also mentioned the Carl Gans Fund’s support during the talks (including a bit about who Carl Gans was and his strong relationship with vertebrate morphology/DVM/SICB) and we used the logo on our website and similar materials such as the meeting flyer. The meeting enjoyed a lot of excited discussion on social media, such as the live-tweeting going on.
We had four world experts in various aspects of vertebrate morphology (dinosaur biomechanics; tetrapod and other animal evo-devo; cave bear tooth evo-devo and palaeontology) give keynote lectures of 30 minutes length—and to celebrate the critical role that women play in leading science all of these speakers were women. In between these keynote lectures, we had sessions of 10 lightning talks of 5 minutes each, which kept the audience hungry for more information and gave the conference a fast pace, plus an excellent opportunity for earlier-career researchers to practice their presentation craft. Those 40 lightning talks covered a huge range of topics including (to name but a few highlights) how batoid rays strangely have lots of stingray spines stuck in their jaws and no one ever knew until now; how different small mammal species feel their way around with their whiskers and use them to know where to put their feet; new ways to model the complex mechanics of jaws in simple ways; and how neutron scanning is a new way to get insight into solid structures like the enamel of teeth.
To fulfill the hunger and thirst for science that all this generated, we interspersed the talk sessions with two coffee breaks, a nice lunch, and a wine reception to cap off the meeting. All of these breaks were 30+ minutes to encourage scientific discussion, and there sure was a lot of it! Furthermore, once the 2-hour wine reception was over, the socializing and science moved to the Hoop and Toy, a nearby pub in the South Kensington area of London. It was an amazing day, >12 hours of science and discourse, and the one thing I keep hearing from attendees is that they badly want to have an annual or semi-annual reoccurrence of this meeting, as it seems to fulfill a need for the huge community of morphology-interested scientists in the area. We’ll see what the future brings but there is no doubt to me or anyone I’ve heard from that the meeting was a great success.