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Review of the 7th International Conference on Fossil Insects, Arthropods and Amber, Edinburgh 2016

Posted by David Penney on

We have just returned from the 7th International Conference on Fossil Insects, Arthropods and Amber, 2016. It was hosted by the National Museums Scotland (NMS) under the auspices of the International Palaeoentomological Society (IPS) and organized by Dr Andrew Ross (NMS) and his team, with input from David Penney and Siri Scientific Press who edited and published the abstracts volume. Additional support was provided by the Palaeontological Association which provided financial support for the Keynote speakers.

The conference opened on 26 April with an icebreaker whisky tasting session at the Royal Society of Edinburgh. This gave the delegates (most of whom had arrived by this time) to catch up with old friends and colleagues and to make new acquaintances before the onset of the conference proper, which consisted of a busy three days of lectures followed by two (optional) post-conference field trips. The delegate list included 97 participants in addition to the organizing team, originating from all over the globe including Europe, Lebanon, Russia, Australia, New Zealand, USA, Canada, Argentina, the Dominican Republic, China and Taiwan. Hence, the only noticeable absences were from Africa and India, and I also feel that South America was underrepresented with just a single delegate. Nonetheless, the conference had a truly international feel to it and I actually felt I was overseas despite having traveled up by train from Manchester.

The conference delegates

The first session consisted of the usual formal opening remarks by the organizers and additional introductions by the Director of Collections (NMS) and the Keeper of Natural Sciences (NMS), followed by the opening address from the President of the IPS, Prof Dany Azar (Lebanon).

David Penney with Dany Azar, president of the IPS

Dany presented the good news that despite several years of failure to formally register the IPS as a recognized society, all the previous hurdles had now been overcome and the IPS is now officially registered in Paris. Dany also designated the 1st October as an annual International Fossil Insect Day! This idea was well received.

Each of the three days consisted of five lecture sessions, of mainly twenty minute talks and a total of four Keynote lectures: Dr Andrew Ross (NMS, Scotland) on Palaeozoic terrestrial arthropods of Scotland; Prof Ed Jarzembowski (CAS, China) on what everybody should know about British fossil insects; Dr David Penney (Siri Scientific Press and University of Manchester, UK) on amber palaeobiology; and Prof Bo Wang (CAS, China) on recent advances in the study of Chinese amber.

David Penney giving his Keynote Lecture

The various different sessions were titled as follows: Arthropoda (two sessions), Diptera, Palaeozoic Arthropoda, Insecta, Mesozoic, Hymenoptera, Mesozoic Insecta, Amber (three sessions), Cenozoic Insecta, Coleoptera and Mecoptera. There was an unavoidable degree of overlap and because there were two parallel sessions on each day it meant that it was not possible to attend all the talks and some potentially interesting presentations had to be forfeited in favour of others. The scope of the talks covered the entire geological record of insects from the very recent (including subfossils) all the way back to the currently oldest know fossils from the Rhinie Chert of Scotland. The taxonomic coverage was also diverse, including talks focussing on spiders, mites and ticks, centipedes, crustaceans, true flies, beetles, crickets, stoneflies, true bugs, lacewings, scorpionflies, ants, bees, wasps, earwigs, mantids, cockroaches, an unusual amphiesmenopteran and various extinct groups. Additional talks focussed on plant-insect interactions or on more general accounts of specific well known deposits, such as the Solite Quarry (USA), Crato Formation (Brazil), Green River (USA), Xiaheyan (China), Talbragar Fish Beds (Australia), in addition to other localities in Iceland, Belgium, Germany, Poland, USA and New Zealand, and also various amber deposits (e.g. Africa, China, Mexico, New Zealand and Lebanon). Additional research was presented in poster format and these were on display throughout the meeting.

Several people brought specimens with them for research exchange or loan returns and so it was also possible to examine some interesting material during the coffee and lunch breaks.

At the end of the final session the prizes were awarded for the best student presentations and we were informed of the result of the vote for the venue of the next conference due to be held in 2019. Delegates had voted in favour of the Dominican Republic over Poland by about two to one. The conference dinner was on the evening of the last day of talks and was held at the Hub, where we got the opportunity to try some traditional Scottish fare and were entertained by Scottish dancers accompanied by a bagpipe player.

A few bottles of wine later the delegates began providing their own entertainment. Of note in this regard was Prof Ren Dong leading the Chinese contingent on stage with their traditional thankyou song and Julian Petrulevicius took charge of motivating and orchestrating the Spanish-speaking contingent accompanied by a German chorus (this took quite some time and a lot of deliberation).

The following day was for post-conference field trips and I hope there were not too many sore heads on the early morning start. We were unable to attend the trips so you will need to look for alternative reports on these from other sources.

All said and done, I thought it was a great meeting, so congratulations and thanks are due to Andrew Ross and his team. Everything seemed to run smoothly and most of the speakers kept to their allotted time slots without overrunning. I think the main highlights for me were the two talks by Alex Schmidt and Eva-Maria Sadowski (Germany) who convincingly contested the long-held opinion that the Baltic amber forest was subtropical in nature and that it was in fact more likely a warm temperate forest … at least in part.

David Penney with Andrew Ross the conference organizer

Of course, Siri Scientific Press was there throughout the meeting exhibiting their palaeontology and entomology titles and it was a great opportunity to catch up with some of our authors (a separate blog post will follow).

Several additional blog posts will result from this meeting in due course. The next will concern Mexican amber.

Don’t forget to check out our palaeontology and entomology titles by clicking here, including our Fossil Insects: an introduction to palaeoentomology, which at the time of the meeting was the most popular title out of approximately 3000 palaeontology books on the NHBS website, despite being published two years ago!

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  • Awesome – sounds like a great, looking forward to the congress in the Dominican Republic in 2019!

    Keith on

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