Costuming for Professional Paleontologists

In less than two weeks is the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology’s annual meeting. This year, the meeting will be held in Los Angeles, the home of earthquakes, tar pits, and Hollywood.

Crazy though it may seem, one thing I do in preparation for the meeting each year is come up with some manner of wacky costume to wear while there, as part of my professional service.

Each year, SVP holds an auction to raise funds for this or that fund. Typically, the funds raised help students in some form or fashion. The auction includes a 2-3 hour silent auction followed by a raucous live auction, during which items such as complete casts of the skull of Tyrannosaurus rex have been sold.

The live auction has become one of the highlights of the annual meeting because over the last decade or so, the Auction Committee has taken to coming in costumes related by a common theme. The theme is never revealed until the live auction begins.

Themes have included: Indiana Jones, Pirates, Vegas Acts, Star Trek, The Avengers, Superheros, James Bond, and Monty Python. Hilarity always ensues when 10 paleontologists dress up and bounce around on stage while 1000 other paleontologists look on and bid on things.

I’ve been a member of the Society’s Auction Committee for almost as long as I’ve been a member of SVP (getting close to 20 years now). I haven’t always gotten in costume, but have been doing so with increasing frequency.

The first year I actually made a costume was when we had the pirate theme. That year, I dressed myself as Captain Feathersword from the children’s show, The Wiggles. I also made a miniature version of the costume for my boy and we went Trick-or-Treating together on Halloween.

The good Captains Feathersword.
The good Captains Feathersword.

That may have been among the most complex of costumes that I have ever made. This Andorian costume was among the easiest.

My Andorian costume. Photo by Dave Lovelace.
My Andorian costume. Photo by Dave Lovelace.

Though this one that I called Siegfried and Rawr (see the velociraptor on my neck?) was also pretty simple.

Seigfried and Rawr. Photo by John Foster.
Seigfried and Rawr. Photo by John Foster.

Last year’s Avenger’s costume was fairly difficult to make, because I was working with pleather and vinyl, which, if you weren’t aware, is rather hard to work with.

Mockingbird from The Avengers.
Mockingbird from The Avengers.

Now the 2013 SVP meeting is less than two weeks away. I’m working on a costume that makes me giggle with glee every time I work on it, but I can’t tell anyone what I’m doing. The theme cannot be revealed.  This is the only hint I can give:


Stay tuned. On Friday, November 1 this year’s theme will be revealed!

Published by paleololigo

Scientist (Paleontology, Geochemistry, Geology); Writer (Speculative and Science Fiction, plus technical and non-technical Science); Mom to great boy on the Autism spectrum; possessor of too many hobbies.

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