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Annual Meeting 2021 - Manchester, UK: Annual Address, Symposium, Workshops

Number: 65th Annual Meeting
Year: 2021
Location: Manchester, UK
Hosted By: University of Manchester, UK
Organised By: Organising committee chaired by Dr Robert Sansom
General Contact Email:

Annual Address, Symposium, Workshops


We are pleased to offer two workshops as part of the annual meeting. The first will run before the meeting as a virtual event on Friday December 17th: “Social Justice in Palaeontology: Case Studies & Future Actions” will be coordinated by Emma Dunne and Nussaïbah B. Raja. This virtual “workshop” will focus on a diverse range of topics relating to current ethical and legal issues in the field of palaeontology. Participants will be able to get involved in one of two ways: (1) by listening in to a series of talks and Q&A session on December 17th (14:00 UTC) or (2) by signing up to join a focus group (max. 30 participants). This workshop is open to all, you do not need to be registered for the Annual Meeting to join the presentation session on December 17th or participate in a focus group. To register for this workshop, and to sign up to be in a focus group (deadline 7th November) you can follow this link: Social Justice in Palaeontology: Case Studies & Future Actions

The second workshop will run as an in-person event on the morning of Saturday September 18th: “Science Communication for Palaeontologists”, coordinated and delivered by Elspeth Sinclair, Liz Hide, Susannah Lydon and Zoe Hughes from the Palaeontological Association’s Public Engagement Group. The workshop aims to answer your questions and help you to grow your knowledge about the aspects of public engagement that are important to you. The format of the workshop is flexible and will allow you to design an experience around the topics you want to learn about. Whether you are completely new to sci comm or have experience and want to learn more, there is something from everyone. Places are limited, so sign up to reserve your spot (instructions as to how will be emailed to registered delegates). When you have signed up, keep an eye on your email for a link to the survey which will enable us to tailor the workshop to your requirements.


Before the main meeting, we will start on Saturday December 18th with a special thematic symposium ‘The Problem of Problematica: pushing the limits of the fossil record’. There will be talks from six international invited speakers addressing a broad range of topics, including geological, biological, ecological and taphonomic approaches to resolving the affinity and evolution of problematic fossil taxa, with important case studies from geological history. Current confirmed speakers include Heda Agić (University of California, Santa Barbara), Derek Briggs (Yale University), Abderrazak El Albani (Université de Poitiers), Xiaoya Ma (University of Exeter), Emily Mitchell (University of Cambridge), and Max Telford (University College London).

Annual Address

The Annual Address will be given on Sunday19th December at 16.00.

Decoding the evolution of form and function in the fossil record: why are animals shaped the way they are?

Prof. Emily J. Rayfield
University of Bristol, UK

Throughout their evolutionary history, animals have evolved a multitude of shapes and sizes. The focus of this seminar is how quantification of animal form and function in the fossil record can help address: Why are organisms shaped in the way they are? How and why does shape evolve? And what are the functional controls on form? I will discuss how imaging analysis combined with the application of biomechanical principles and computational methods drawn from engineering structural analysis can be applied to understand the function and evolution of animals. Fossils typically preserve only part of the puzzle; studies on living animals are also key, to provide the whole organism and phylogenetic context to form-function evolution. As the fields of palaeobiomechanics and organismal anatomy and comparative methods advance, there is great potential to synthesise multiple lines of evidence to better constrain and better understand the functional evolution of extinct animals. To demonstrate this multi-modal approach, I will present a case study on the function and evolution of the skull across the water to land transition, drawing on X-ray tomographic data, studies on extant musculoskeletal anatomy and in vivo function, computational analysis of function and morphometric and network analysis approaches.

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