|Clockwise from left to right: the first draft of the monograph with marginalia, laptop with manuscript in progress, premaxillary teeth and the first maxillary tooth from the new species, loupe, and digital calipers.|
How does the MOR collection compare to others?
(1) There are multiple specimens of the new species.
(2) A growth series is represented.
In circumstances where I work without a growth series, I feel utterly blind regarding the data I collect – I simply do not know what it means, and it is a disquieting experience. Thankfully at the MOR I do not have to worry that I am working in the dark.
(3) The skulls are in some cases articulated, whereas others are disarticulated.
The growth series that I have been working on includes a nearly completely articulated skull that thankfully is separated into several large sections. In this condition the specimen is much more maneuverable than a single unit of bone, which lends itself to a more complete and accurate description. The growth series also includes a completely disarticulated skull and skeleton, which gives me access to every surface of each bone that are otherwise blocked from view in the articulated skull. Finally, the series includes isolated bones that also provide a complete view of every bone.
(4) The skulls have associated postcrania.
(5) There are multiple specimens of multiple taxa.
With each of these qualities considered, the MOR is toe-to-toe with the collections at the American Museum of Natural History (New York, NY), Canadian Museum of Nature (Aylmer, QC), and the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology (Drumheller, AB), at least when tyrannosaurids are considered.
Is there a cost to such a fantastic state of affairs?
This research trip will provide a baseline that I can use to estimate the time of completion for similar descriptive projects. So far, two whole months have gone into this project and I predict that it will take between one and two weeks to finish the collections-based part of it, which is longer than I expected that component to take.
What sort of flexibility do you allow yourself?
What did you get done, really?
What challenges do you face?
Although writing an osteological description is primarily a task of the mind, it is tiring. My best time of day is in the morning, even though I am not a morning person. I can usually work for two days with high energy before I hit the ‘brick wall’ in the early afternoon of the third day and the others that follow. I experience the brick wall as an overwhelming sensation of inertia regarding the task before me and I can no longer sit still and write. As a remedy, I pace around to rid myself of the nervous, distracting energy. The best way that I combat the brick wall is to take advice given to undergraduate students when they study for an exam – don’t take on the task for several hours straight, instead take a break for 10-15 minutes every hour.
What advice do you have for students who are starting their first descriptive work?
How is this work funded?
What’s left for this project?