Sunday, October 19, 2014

THE JANE DIARIES, ENTRY #9


October 19, 2014
3:34 pm: Having given the morning to the SVP poster, I want to add the last page of the Currie et al. (2003) characters to the Jane ms. I’m starting this with a worsening headache that feels like a cap of metal spreading under my calvarium; I’m resolved to tough it out.
4:02: I have to rest, I can’t focus on what I’m doing. Defeated by character 61.
6:13: Second try at it; I still feel like I have a new skull growing into my old skull.
6:42: Just got done with Currie et al. (2003)! Now, on to Holtz (2001) – 111 characters before I get to Carr (1999)!
6:57: Time to eat.
8:18: Done with dinner and rested, but I feel too awful to work; I brought MVL up to the bedroom in case I feel better later on.

References cited
Carr, T.D.  1999.  Craniofacial ontogeny in Tyrannosauridae (Dinosauria, Theropoda). Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 19: 497-520.

Currie, P.J., J.H. Hurum, and K. Sabath. 2003. Skull structure and evolution in tyrannosaurid dinosaurs. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 48: 227234.

Holtz, T.R., Jr.  2001.  The phylogeny and taxonomy of the Tyrannosauridae. In Mesozoic Vertebrate Life. Edited by D. H. Tanke and K. Carpenter. Indiana University Press, Bloomington and Indianapolis, Indiana pp. 64-83.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

THE JANE DIARIES, ENTRY #8

The wall above my workspace, for reference.

October 18, 2014
Start ~6:30 pm. Begin with Currie et al. (2003), character 7.
I have eaten a big meal; I feel lethargic and I want to quit for the day, but I know this will not write itself. I have spent the bulk of my waking hours (9:30 am-~5:00 pm) working on the phylogenetic data matrix that will form the basis of my SVP poster. So Jane has waited until this atypical, late hour.
7:07: the first page of the appendix is done! Now, on to character 18…
I keep my most actively referenced scientific literature in chronologically organized binders, and I am pulling out one page at a time so that Tyrannosauroidea #7 does not take over the limited space on my crowded table.
7:25: passed the jugal!
7:45: I went upstairs to make some tea, where I was taken aback and distressed by how open and extensive the main floor is, even though I have all of the curtains drawn. It reminds me of my most terror stricken nightmares, where the empty space of dark rooms is filled by a horribly malevolent and invisible consciousness. My study is much more suited to a better frame of mind; the ceiling is low and the space is enclosed on all sides by bookshelves and shelves for casts, and it is largely filled by my worktables.
8:12: The tea hasn’t helped much, but I will finish this damn page before I stop! I’m at character 43, the shape of the palatine.
8:23: This page is done! I have to take a break from this. One page to go; in no time I’ll be on to Holtz (2001)!
Oh, right - 412 pages reached.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

THE JANE DIARIES, ENTRY #7


The view at the end of last week - dorsal rib #1 in progress!
October 14, 2014
Raw notes.
Start: ~9:50 am. Dorsal rib A, osteological correlates of muscles.
10:32: started on Dorsal rib B.
10:40: MW crashed when I copied and pasted a template of headings for the rib descriptions.
10:47: back on track; just spoke to a museum visitor about the Jane description; i.e., met briefly with IL, the director, and a visitor to the collections who asked if I had a grant to do this project, and if I was on a sabbatical to do it; very funny assumptions!
12:07: break for lunch. Shaft of rib B almost done.
12:58: back from lunch.
1:34: started rib C.
4:03: started rib D.
stopped 4:25 pm. 408 pages reached.

Appendix. Scenes from the road, morning.

~Above the asphalt filter/an iris rip in Jovian belts of slate lavender ~

Monday, October 13, 2014

THE JANE DIARIES, ENTRY #6


October 12, 2014
Today I reached an important milestone, having added into the manuscript the last of the long lists of phylogenetic characters from Brusatte et al. (2010) and Loewen et al., (2013)  - 307 and 501 characters, respectively. That is not to say there are no loose threads: I must check some features in Jane that I missed the first time around, I have to dredge through some spreadsheets for measurements, and there are new measurements that I need to take, among other details and omissions. Regardless, the primary task is done.
I also still have to add the adult condition for a good number of those features, although I’ve made a strong effort to do that along the way. In that endeavor I draw from, in descending order, the type specimen, CM 9380, and the referred specimens AMNH FARB 5027 and FMNH PR2081, which compensate for the type's deficiencies. The reason for the priority of the New York and Chicago specimens is based on the simple fact of the historical sequence of publication; i.e., Osborn preceded Brochu.
I do my best to follow this hierarchy, but at times I find that the adult that I have best documented is ‘Scotty’ (RSM 2523.8), a far-flung specimen collected in Saskatchewan, and so it makes a regular, if unexpected, appearance in the monograph. This distinction is owed to a particularly intense two weeks with the skull and skeleton at the T. rex Discovery Centre in Eastend, SK.
There isn’t much opportunity for reflection during these brief, focused bouts of working on the manuscript, but at times the task of adding the anatomical details from the extensive lists of phylogenetic characters brings with it moments of admiration and humility. This happens when I come across features that others have documented, but I had missed. The fact that every osteological detail is potential data is an easy lesson to learn, but vigilance is a difficult discipline to master. We have to train ourselves to see in each bone the invisible, the unmarked, the latent meaning; the topography of everything.
The miles yet before I sleep include the phylogenetic characters of Currie et al. (2003) and Holtz (2001), and the ontogenetic characters of Carr (1999). In total, far less than the 808 that I’ve given the last several weeks. As of today, 389 pages written!
Abbreviations used: AMNH FARB, American Museum of Natural History Fossil Amphibians, Reptiles, and Birds, New York; CM, Carnegie Museum, Pittsburgh; FMNH, Field Museum, Chicago; RSM, Royal Saskatchewan Museum, Eastend.
References cited
Brusatte, S. L., M. A. Norell, T. D. Carr, G. M. Erickson, J. R. Hutchinson, A. M. Balanoff, G. B. Bever, J. N. Choiniere, P. J. Makovocky, & X. Xu. 2010. Tyrannosaur paleobiology: new research on ancient exemplar organisms. Science 329:1481.
Carr, T.D.  1999.  Craniofacial ontogeny in Tyrannosauridae (Dinosauria, Theropoda). Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 19: 497-520.

Currie, P.J., J.H. Hurum, and K. Sabath. 2003. Skull structure and evolution in tyrannosaurid dinosaurs. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 48: 227234.
 
Holtz, T.R., Jr.  2001.  The phylogeny and taxonomy of the Tyrannosauridae. In Mesozoic Vertebrate Life. Edited by D. H. Tanke and K. Carpenter. Indiana University Press, Bloomington and Indianapolis, Indiana pp. 64-83.
Loewen, M. A., Irmis, R. B., Sertich, J. J. W., Currie, P. J., and S. D. Sampson. 2013. Tyrant dinosaur evolution tracks the rise and fall of Late Cretaceous oceans. PLoS ONE 8: 1-14.

Appendix: Today’s raw notes.
Start: 9:44 am (Continuing with the last of the femoral characters of Loewen et al. (2013).
Started adding subheadings a couple of weeks ago to make sections easier to find.
DDM specimens included in the tibia section.
Going through these lists of features are a lesson of admiration and humility; the features I’ve missed simply because I took them for granted; everything counts. It’s a more difficult lesson to learn than I’ve realized.
10:32 MW crashes when I attempt to cut and paste a sentence; I cover my eyes so that I can’t see the documents re-open. I then immediately back up the ms.
10:52: the pes, at last!
11:34: Brusatte et al., 2010 done!
12:01pm: Loewen et al., 2013 done!
12:02: starting Currie et al. 2003!
389 pages stop 12:15 pm

Saturday, October 11, 2014

THE JANE DIARIES, ENTRY #5


At the top of the stairs the paleontologist set the steel mug of coffee on the ledge, turned, and shut the door. He turned back, stooped to grip the wolf-handle and then descended to his study, past the fevered, glassy skyline of Tourment Verte, Lucid, Suisse Verte, and Grande Absente.
At the bottom of the stairs he turned left and headed between rows of boxes toward his workdesk. On the left, he passed a large Allosaurus skull (a cast), then a stack of papers that includes the complete correspondences between Gilmore and Dunkle, and then a music stand that holds up an original copy of Osborn (1912) for quick reference; on the right three full bookshelves, the last devoted entirely to tyrannosaurids, conceal the wall like an onyx catacomb. The massive surangular of an adult T. rex partly covers the floor below the last cliff like rookery.
His hand reached for the dehumidifier and pressed the button off; the fan stopped and silence lowered the drawbridge for his mind. He turned to the table, littered with casts of Jane’s disarticulated skeleton: skull bones, hemal arches, and other parts of the postcranium – whatever the moments demanded – were at hand, unreturned to the orderly desk and shelves around the corner. To the left, the flatscreen monitor stands above the ivory chaos like a hovering monolith.
To the right the desk is stacked with papers and books, with casts of a dentary and scapulocoracoid piled on top; binders of scientific articles and photo albums of bones fill the seat next to his. He set the mug between the casts of a quadratojugal and the hemal arches, and put the laptop between the arches and a binder that is open to the appendix of Currie et al. (2003), itself covered by the cast of the opposite dentary. The appendix is the one he’ll next incorporate into his opus. He opened the laptop screen, and plugged in the power cord and the external hard drive.
He resumed work at character 419 of Loewen et al. (2013), which pertains to the relative sizes of the pubic and ischial peduncles of the ilium as seen from the side. From that starting point, he included the rest of the pelvic characters into the manuscript. An hour later he reached the femur; in the meantime, a migraine steadily overshadowed the afternoon course of his work. After another 40 minutes he stopped, leaving the last of the femoral characters from Loewen et al. (2013) for the next day. The manuscript had climbed to 382 pages.
References cited
Loewen, M. A., Irmis, R. B., Sertich, J. J. W., Currie, P. J., and S. D. Sampson. 2013. Tyrant dinosaur evolution tracks the rise and fall of Late Cretaceous oceans. PLoS ONE 8: 1-14.
Osborn, H.F. 1912. Crania of Tyrannosaurus and Allosaurus. Memoirs of the American Museum of Natural History 1: 330.
Currie, P.J., J.H. Hurum, and K. Sabath. 2003. Skull structure and evolution in tyrannosaurid dinosaurs. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 48: 227234.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

THE JANE DIARIES, ENTRY #4

Science in progress. Burpee Museum (Rockford, IL), October 7, 2014.
October 7, 2014

Left at 8:30-
Scenes from the road:
~A man standing in a grassy median/His jacket is a cocoon of tight green wire/His feet nose the road's last deer/the shadow back bronzes into a secondary sunrise/Pulls a phone from the jacket to his ear/Three russet plumes of leaf bonfires~
-arrived at 9:30
10:45 am: I’ve finished writing up the paired set of cervical ribs. I then spent some time double checking the sequence of the rest of the cervicals and numbered them with a new set of Post It notes. I then resumed writing up the remaining ribs (there are two to go – I am presently writing up Cervical rib E). I covered a lot more ground during the previous visit than I remembered.
11:03 am: IL and CO removed the left dorsal ribs from the mount and brought them down to where I am working in the collections. I expect that I’ll reach the dorsals today.
11:56 am: We leave for lunch; just before that I was siding the last cervical rib, which appears to be from the right side. The capitulum is snapped off and the anterior end of the cranial process is damaged, and the degree of bilateral symmetry is extreme (unlike the preceding ribs), which briefly threw me.
12:54 pm: Back to the ribs!
2:06 pm: I finished writing up the last free cervical rib (Cervical rib G), but there are a few loose ends: I still have to photograph several of them in multiple views, and I have to compare my rib descriptions with those of Brochu (2003) and Brusatte et al. (2012) to fill any holes in the description.
I’ve started writing up the left dorsal rib 1, but it nags at me that its complement is preserved and is attached to the skeleton upstairs. I leave the collections room to check the gallery; indeed, the first dorsal is there on the right side, and it is more complete than the left bone that I have started penning.
3:09 pm: Returned from the gallery with the first right dorsal rib in hand, which IL just removed for me.
4:07 pm: Microsoft Word just crashed when I copied a heading, “Osteological correlates, ligaments”. It takes a few minutes to reopen the program, open the file, and find my place. Luckily, only two subheadings were lost in the crash; I save the document compulsively as I write to minimize the cost of these frequent, frustrating, crashes. Luckily this is only crash today.
4:24 pm: I wrap up, having nearly completed the description of the first dorsal rib, where I stopped after getting several paragraphs into “Osteological correlates, muscles”. The manuscript has reached 377 pages.
Left at 4:35 pm-
Scenes from the road:
~The sky is mitered by long, crushed anvils/The full moon waxes oblate in a silent ascending drill~
References cited
Brochu, C.A. 2003. Osteology of Tyrannosaurus rex: insights from a nearly complete skeleton and high-resolution computed tomographic analysis of the skull. Society of Vertebrate Paleontology Memoir 7: 1-138.
Brusatte, S. L., T.D. Carr, andM.A. Norell.  2012. The osteology of Alioramus, a gracile and long-snouted tyrannosaurid (Dinosauria: Theropoda) from the Late Cretaceous of Mongolia. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 366: 1-197.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

THE JANE DIARIES, ENTRY #3

October 5, 2014

Today I completed adding the characters of the pectoral girdle and limb, and now I am working my way through the ilium. Six new pages have been written, which brings the total to 361. The fevered ordeal of measuring the bones that are fixed to the armature has paid off - I’ve been able to provide the measurements that are required to quantify several of the characters that I’ve included today.

It brings me a great deal of satisfaction to find I have the measurements to answer the literature; I’ve spent several afternoons in the gallery measuring the pelvis (fixed to the mount) and crus, at times balanced on a stool, and working against the clock in a sweat. It may not sound believable, but does take a great deal of time, focus, physical exertion, and stamina with two sets of digital calipers to fill about 250 cells in an Excel spreadsheet. Satisfaction also comes from knowing I’ve followed through on the trust and patience of the museum staff who have let me behind the gate, and scuff the platform during those rounds of data collection.

It’ll be another day between nights before I’m back at the museum to wrap up the cervical ribs…