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UC Hosts Prestigious North American Paleontological Convention in the 'Year of Darwin'

Hundreds of paleontologists from around the world convene at the University of Cincinnati to discuss their research, science and evolution in the K–12 curriculum and the importance of public science literacy.

Date: 6/15/2009 12:00:00 AM
By: Wendy Beckman
Phone: (513) 556-1826
Other Contact: Arnie Miller
Other Contact Phone: (513) 556-4022
Photos By: Dottie Stover, photojournalist

UC ingot   Several hundred leading paleontologists gather on the campus of UC June 21–26 for the ninth North American Paleontological Convention (NAPC 2009) to present their latest research.
WISE student Sara Oser and Prof David Meyer with a friend at the Natural History Museum from the Upper Jurassic Morrison Formation of Montana.
NAPC 2009 is hosted by University of Cincinnati paleontology.

Leading scientists will speak on topics ranging from new discoveries about how ancient animals and plants lived and how life evolved on the changing Earth, to how life was affected by mass extinctions and how knowledge of fossils can be applied to problems of climate change. Speakers include renowned paleontologists Sean Carroll, Doug Erwin, Steven Stanley, Jack Horner and Jeremy Jackson. 

Highlights of the week include field trips to showcase the region’s strata and fossils, including the world-renowned Cincinnati Arch. On Wednesday morning, the conference will take a respite from its conventional activities to embark on a variety of field trips, including two unusual opportunities. The first is a fossil-collecting excursion to the Caesar Creek area north of Cincinnati. The second is a visit to the much-publicized Creation Museum, which opened near the Greater Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport in May 2007.

"The organizing committee felt that it was essential for professional paleontologists to become better aware of how their work and their roles in society are portrayed by creationists, themes that are conveyed vividly at the museum,” says UC paleontologist Arnie Miller, chair of the organizing committee. The excursion will take place on the morning of June 24 and will be followed on Thursday morning by a plenary session called “Evolution and Society,” which will include presentations by Eugenie Scott, Kenneth Miller and Mark Terry followed by group discussions of the Evolution-versus-Creationism controversy.

Professor Arnie Miller chaired the organizing committee for NAPC 2009.
Professor Arnie Miller chaired the organizing committee for NAPC 2009.

Convention participants will be able to experience some of the amenities of the University of Cincinnati and the city at large, such as a free pass to the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, a one-week pass to the UC Campus Recreation Center (including a three-on-three basketball tournament), significantly reduced rates for campus parking, and a banquet in the rotunda of the Cincinnati Museum Center, including viewings of two movies in the OMNIMAX® Theatre.

A group of geobiology students from the Department of Geological Sciences, Indiana University, Bloomington, even contributed thoughts about how to make NAPC 2009 a “Green Conference.” (An NAPC 2009 drink cup will provided to all participants and large containers of water will be provided during breaks, instead of individually packaged bottles of water or other soft drinks. See below for the IU students’ tips on holding a green conference.)


What: North American Paleontological Convention 2009
When: June 21–26, 2009
Who: Paleontologists and other scientists from around the world
Where: On the University of Cincinnati Uptown campus, mostly in Tangeman University Center

Through the generosity of the National Science Foundation, 100 American students will be receiving full rebates of their meeting registration fees.

Funding has also been made available through the generosity of the BP Global Energy Group for a number of international students, with first priority to those from underdeveloped countries, to receive partial reimbursements of their travel expenses.

Kate Bulinski earned her PhD at UC and is now on the faculty of Bellarmine University.
Kate Bulinski earned her PhD at UC and is now on the faculty of Bellarmine University.

Organizing Committee:

Arnold Miller University of Cincinnati, Chair
William Ausich, Ohio State University
Loren Babcock, Ohio State University
Catherine Badgley, University of Michigan
Kate Bulinski, Bellarmine University
Carlton Brett, University of Cincinnati
Brenda Hanke, Cincinnati Museum of Natural History
Claudia Johnson, Indiana University
Jack Kallmeyer, Cincinnati Dry Dredgers
Erle Kauffman, Indiana University
David Meyer, University of Cincinnati
Lisa Park, University of Akron
Alycia Stigall, Ohio University
Glenn Storrs, Cincinnati Museum of Natural History
Andrew Webber, Miami University, Hamilton
Margaret Yacobucci, Bowling Green State University

Highlights of Speakers and Sessions

Sean Carroll: Carroll is a professor of molecular biology and genetics and an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at the University of Wisconsin. His research has centered on the genes that control animal body patterns and play major roles in the evolution of animal diversity. Carroll is the author of "The Making of the Fittest" and of "Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo." Sean Carroll will present “Endless Forms Most Beautiful: Evo-Devo and an Expanding Evolutionary Synthesis.”

Doug Erwin: Erwin is a Senior Scientist and Curator at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Department of Paleobiology in Washington, D.C; and also holds an appointment at the Santa Fe Institute. He is the author or editor of six books, including "Extinction: How Life Nearly Died 250 Million Years Ago." His research involves a variety of aspects of the history of life and evolution. Doug Erwin will be presenting “Evolutionary Uniformitarianism.”

Steven M. Stanley: Stanley is a researcher in the Department of Geology and Geophysics at the University of Hawaii, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, and a research associate with the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. He is the author of "Earth System History, Exploring Earth and Life Through Time" and "New Evolutionary Timetable: Fossils, Genes and the Origin of the Species," among others. He is most known as the author of  "Macroevolution: Pattern and Process," and co-author, along with David Raup, of the first two editions of "Principles of Paleontology" — considered “the Bible” of paleontology. Stanley will present “The Punctual Model of Evolution: Where Does It Stand?” and “Three Mass Extinctions Suppressed Global Diversity During the Early Triassic: Evidence from Ammonoids and Conodonts.”

Jack Horner: Horner is the Ameya Preserve Curator of Paleontology at the Museum of the Rockies and Regents Professor, Montana State University. He discovered the first dinosaur eggs in the Western Hemisphere, the first evidence of dinosaur colonial nesting, the first evidence of parental care among dinosaurs and the first dinosaur embryos. His research covers a wide range of topics about dinosaurs, including their behavior, physiology, ecology and evolution. He is the author of "How to Build a Dinosaur: Extinction Doesn't Have to Be Forever" and "In the Presence of Dinosaurs," among other books. Horner will be presenting “Hell Creek Formation Dinosaur Census Reveals Abundant Tyrannosaurus,”and is co-author on another paper, both of which will be presented in a special symposium on the famous Hell Creek Formation.

Jeremy Jackson: Jackson is a marine ecologist with Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego and the director of the Scripps Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation. He also holds a position as senior scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. His research includes the long-term ecological effects of overfishing on coastal ecosystems and the ecological and evolutionary consequences of the formation of the Isthmus of Panama, which divided the Pacific and Atlantic oceans about three million years ago. Jeremy Jackson will be presenting “Back to the Present” and “Why Don’t They Listen?”

Eugenie Scott: Scott is the Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education. She has been a researcher and an activist in the creationism/evolution controversy for more than 25 years and is the author of Evolution vs. Creationism and co-editor, with Glenn Branch, of "Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design Is Wrong for Our Schools." Eugenie Scott will be presenting “Strategies for Defending Evolution Education.”

Kenneth Miller: Miller is a professor of biology at Brown University and the University of Colorado. One of his principal interests is the public understanding of evolution. He has written a number of articles defending the scientific integrity of evolution, answering challenges such as “intelligent design,” and has debated a number of anti-evolutionists. His most recent books are "Finding Darwin’s God" and "Only a Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America’s Soul." He recently came to Cincinnati as part of the Darwin2009 Sesquicentennial Celebration. Kenneth Miller will be presenting “Reclaiming ‘Design’: A Strategy for Success in the Evolution Wars.”

Mark Terry: Terry is a founder of the Northwest School and is a leading figure in the national debate for teaching evolution in the K–12 curriculum. Mark Terry will be presenting “Thirty Years of Paleontological Science at Northwest School.”

Creation Museum Visit
A stone’s throw away from the stone age in more ways than one: Designed by a former exhibit director for Universal Studios, the Creation Museum in northern Kentucky claims to “bring the pages of the Bible to life,” presenting a Young-Earth Creationist vision of the history of life. Given the importance of the creationism versus evolution debate in the public arena, the NAPC organizing committee concluded that an opportunity should be provided for NAPC participants to visit the museum. In particular, the committee believes that it is essential for professional paleontologists to become better aware of how their work and their roles in society are portrayed by creationists, themes that are conveyed vividly at the museum.

Education and Public Outreach Day
Educators are invited to attend any of the sessions during the meeting, but one day should be of particular interest and has been designated as an “Education and Public Outreach Day”: Thursday, June 25, 2009. That day’s presentations focus on evolution and society, specifically the creationism-evolution controversy including talks by Eugenie Scott and Kenneth Miller. Continuing Education Unit credits will be certified by NAPC for attending the entire day (up to 10 hrs) or part of the day.

Pat McLaughlin earned his PhD at UC and is now with the Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey.
Pat McLaughlin earned his PhD at UC and is now with the Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey.

Field Trips
Before, during and after the convention, field trips are offered to explore the region and its fossils. Many of the field trips have already filled up and have waiting lists.

  • Depositional Environments and Paleoecology in a Sequence Stratigraphic Context: Upper Ordovician Strata in the Classic Cincinnati Arch Area
  • Changing Physical and Biotic Conditions on Eastern Laurussia: Evidence from Late Devonian-to-Middle Mississippian Basinal and Deltaic Sediments of Northeastern Kentucky
  • Carboniferous Geology and Paleontology on the Eastern Margin of the Illinois Basin
  • Big Bone Lick — The Premier Fossil-Vertebrate Locality in North America
  • The Richmondian Invasion: Understanding the Faunal Response to Climate Change through Stratigraphic Paleobiology
  • Stratigraphy and Paleontology of the Silurian and Devonian Strata in the Central Ohio Valley, the Falls of the Ohio and Quarries in Clark Co., Indiana
  • Middle Paleozoic Sequence Stratigraphy and Paleontology of the Western Flank of the Cincinnati Arch
  • “Stoned in Cincinnati” — Building Stones of the Queen City
  • Middle and Upper Devonian Sequences, Sea-Level, Climatic and Biotic Events in East-Central Laurentia: Kentucky, Ohio and Michigan
  • Mississippian Paleontology of South-Central Kentucky

Green Thinking

Alex Bartholomew earned his PhD at UC and is now with SUNY New Paltz. (Photo by Peter Griga.)
Alex Bartholomew earned his PhD at UC and is now with SUNY New Paltz. (Photo by Peter Griga.)

Geobiology Students from the Department of Geological Sciences at Indiana University, Bloomington, contributed these tips about making NAPC 2009 a “Green Conference,” such as the following:

  • Unplug your home computers, DVD players and other electronic devices (they use power even when plugged in), and adjust thermostats to save on fuel and electricity bills before you leave for Cincinnati.
  • Switch off air conditioners, lights and fans in dormitory rooms and restrooms before departing the residence halls for the day’s activities.
  • Use the refillable NAPC 2009 drink cup that will be provided to all participants.
  • Take advantage of coffee urns and large containers of water provided during breaks, instead of individually packaged bottles of water or other soft drinks.
  • Visit Web sites for other tips about running a green conference.


  • BP
  • Cincinnati Museum Center
  • Indiana Geological Survey
  • Kentucky Geological Survey/University of Kentucky
  • National Science Foundation
  • Paleontological Society
  • Ohio Department of Natural Resources/Geological Survey
  • University of Cincinnati

About Paleontology at the University of Cincinnati

It's a 'Threepeat' for UC's Paleontology Program
UC’s paleontology program, within the Department of Geology of the McMicken College of Arts and Sciences, continues to be recognized as one of the nation's best.

Scientists Bring New Life to an Ancient Ocean — Covering Cincinnati and the Tristate

UC's David Meyer and Richard Davis of Mt. St. Joseph recently published
UC's David Meyer and Richard Davis of Mt. St. Joseph recently published "A Sea Without Fish" about the Cincinnatian.

David Meyer and Richard Davis bring 'A Sea Without Fish: Life in the Ordovician Sea of the Cincinnati Region' to Joseph-Beth Booksellers for a book signing on Sunday, April 26, at 1 p.m.

What Makes a Fossil?
It is the rare plant or animal that becomes a fossil, in the form of a mineralized Doppelganger of its former self. To then become part of the published fossil record is an even rarer occasion in that someone had to find that fossil and document it in writing somewhere.

Kate Bulinski — A Great Find
A diamond in the rough might be an appropriate description for a geologist. Diamond is the hardest naturally occurring substance, created by intense pressure. But Kate Bulinski is not rough. And she’s not a mineralogist; she’s a paleontologist.

Paleontologists Honor UC’s Arnie Miller for Significant Work
The Paleontological Society has awarded UC scientist Arnie Miller with the prestigious Centennial Fellow title in recognition of his contributions to the field of paleontology.

More About the North American Paleontological Convention 2009 (NAPC)
The 9th North American Paleontological Convention (NAPC) will be held on the campus of the University of Cincinnati, June 21-26, 2009. The centrally located Cincinnati region is world renowned for its Upper Ordovician fossils and strata, and has a long-established heritage of paleontological research and teaching.

About UC’s Year of Darwin 2009 Evolution: Evidence & Impact
Throughout UC's year-long celebration of the bicentennial of Darwin’s birth and the sesquicentennial of the On the Origin of Species, we hope to communicate the many contemporary applications of

  • Darwin’s theory of evolution by common descent, 
  • the breadth of Darwin’s research and its ramifications, 
  • the truth of Darwin’s work as a cornerstone of modern science and 
  • the multiple applications of evolutionary theory throughout UC research.

More Darwin Coming Events