Friday, January 16, 2009

Workshop for the Digital Paleontologist

If you're a grad student interested in using mathematical techniques in your paleontological research, this workshop is for you! John Alroy and colleagues are presenting the fifth annual Paleobiology Database Summer Course in Analytical Paleobiology, hosted at the campus for the University of California's National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis in Santa Barbara.

The rest of this post is taken directly from the announcement to the VRTPALEO list by John Alroy. I never had the chance to participate in this workshop (field season and all, and then I was too old of a grad student), but wish I had!

About the course
Since 2005 the Paleobiology Database has conducted a five-week intensive course in analytical paleobiology at the University of California's National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis in Santa Barbara. In 2009 the course is scheduled to run from 30 June to 4 August, following NAPC. It will be supported primarily by the Paleontological Society with additional contributions from NESCent, the Palaeontological Association, and the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology.

Topics will include community paleoecology, quantitative biochronology, diversity curves, speciation and extinction, phylogenetics, phenotypic evolution, and morphometrics. Both simulation modelling and data analysis methods will be employed. The course will combine lectures and labs. Students will be given hands-on instruction in programming using R and trained in other analytical software. In addition to the course coordinator, each week a new instructor will be present. The instructors are expected to be John Alroy, Gene Hunt, Tom Olszewski, Pete Wagner, and Mark Webster.

There is no fee for registration, and students will be housed for free in apartments on the UCSB campus. Students are urged to apply for travel funds from their home institutions. If such funds are not available, travel expenses may be reimbursed for up to $400 if coming from the United States, $600 if coming from Western Europe, or $800 if coming from other countries. Students are responsible for meal expenses. There are no other charges of any kind, and no other major expenses are likely.

How to apply
Participating students should be in the early stages of their own research in any area related to paleontology. They should have a background in basic statistics, and preferably also programming. The ability to understand rapidly spoken English is essential. The course is open to undergraduates and advanced graduate students, but first or second year graduate students are particularly encouraged to apply. We also strongly encourage applications from women, minorities, and international students. Applications from professionals who have completed their studies will be considered, but strong preference will be given to students.

Applications should be submitted in PDF format to John Alroy ( The review process will begin on 15 February 2009, and applications received by midnight Pacific time on that day will receive priority. Applications should consist of a one page statement. Do not include separate documents such as a curriculum vitae. No form needs to be filled out.

The statement should include a brief description of current research plans, a list of degrees earned stating the year of graduation in each case, a brief list of relevant classes taken, and an account of the student's previous use of statistics and programming. Students who do not employ English as a primary language should describe their experiences learning and speaking it. Applicants are encouraged to explain why the topics addressed by the course are of special interest to them, and which of these subjects are taught at their home institutions.

Applications must be accompanied by a recommendation letter, also in PDF format, written by the student's academic advisor and e-mailed separately. Obtaining a recommendation from anyone who is not an advisor must be explained. It is important that the recommendation give details about the applicant's personal character and abilities, not just credentials and descriptions of research projects. Recommendation letters also must be received by the end of the due date.


Anonymous said...

Wow! I'm intrigued. Does this decrease your time in college to be a Paleontologist?

Andy said...

Probably not, in most circumstances. . .it's not "for credit," but more intended to let people augment their research skills.

Anonymous said...

If "augment" means the same as "hone", then I certainly need that help. I'm not very good at researching yet, but, I do try to put info I do find on the web in my own words when I do my Fossil Facts!

BTW, How often do you stop by PaleoQuest?