A visit to the land down under
The 7th of July 2010 saw Krishnapriya Tamma of Lab 3 (Dr Uma Ramakrishnan's lab), attending her first day at the workshop on Analytical Methods in Paleobiology, organized by the Paleobiology Database.Originally started by a group of young paleontologists and popularized by John Alroy, this database is an important forum for all paleontologists. The story of evolution cannot be told without fossil evidence, but understanding their role in the history of life on our plan has remained esoteric at best. Given the incomplete nature of the fossil record, this database plugs a major hole in fossil datasets, by allowing access to fossil datasets from all across the world. It also organizes this workshop every year, for 12 students selected from across the world. usually organized in Santa Barbara, US, this time the course made its debut in Sydney.
The workshop in Sydney saw a mix of European and American students, largely beginning their PhDs or at critical junctures in their career. All students were received financial support to attend this course. Out of 12 students, three were from Europe, eight from the North America (including students from other countries studying in the US) and only one from Asia. These students got together with the best minds in the field for more than one month, in order to discuss everything from dinosaurs to radiolarians, brachiopods to clams and Raup to Gould. The argument and discussion facilitated learning, both theoretically and practically. Consisting of several modules, the course covered topics like biochronology, community paleoecology, diversity curves, speciation and extinction, phylogenetics, phenotypic evolution, and morphometrics.
Being the first Indian student to attend this workshop, Krishnapriya (Tamma) spent the time between the modules exploring Sydney. She got her first glimpse of the Pacific Ocean, the greenish-blue contrasting spectacularly with the cliffs upon which she stood. Watching wild fairy penguins, trekking through the Blue Mountains and touching ferns that have been around since the age of the dinosaurs were some of the highlights of her stay. But most importantly (on days when the sun was clouded over and the winter chill set in) she visited museums and enjoyed scintillating banter that involved rocks, bones and other such paleontological sources of amusement. Her one line summary about the workshop is, “This course has made me aware of just how little we know about life's history”.
(Inputs from Krishnapriya Tamma)