I was in Lincoln, Nebraska this weekend for the Midwest Ecology and Evolution Conference (that’s some exciting stuff right there). It was a ten hour drive through brown, empty farmland. The only highlights of the drive were crossing the Mississippi (took a couple minutes to figure out what that giant body of water was…doh), seeing all the cool giant wind turbines, and this gas station:
Is this seriously a chain out in the great plains? That’s the most horrendous name ever. I was giggling like a 13 year old for a while over this one.

The University of Nebraska Lincoln had a really nice campus. It was a total ghost town though…not just campus, but all of Lincoln. There were no people or cars anywhere. Did they hear the evolutionists were coming and leave or something?

Anyway, the conference itself was pretty good. I got to hear great talks by David Quammen, Svata Louda, Randy Moore, and David Hillis. Randy Moore was the winner of the Discovery Institute’s Award for Most Dogmatic Indoctrinator in an Evolutionary Biology Course, and his talk was about the history of creationism in the US. Pretty interesting, since I only knew about modern figures. Since we talked a lot about people like Dawkins and PZ Myers in the Q&A, I introduced myself as the President of the Society of Non-Theists afterwards and got a loud “Good for you!” Woot!

My favorite part was that our poster session was held in Elephant Hall, a natural history museum on campus focusing on mastadons. Their statue pretty much owns our lame Neil Armstrong statue at Purdue:
It was pretty wonderfully random having a poster session surrounded by fossils and fake elephants. It’s also home to the largest mastadon statue ever discovered (at least, according to the little informational thingy). I’m really glad these things aren’t around anymore. Except for the dwarf mammoth. That thing looked adorable, and was the size of a medium dog. Apparently the ancient Greeks used to think its skull was from a cyclops, since its nasal cavity leaves a weird hole in its head. I just sort of want it as a pet <3

They also had an Irish Elk skeleton, which is my favorite story of runaway sexual selection ever. Not to mention a gigantic armadillo thing:

In conclusion, nature is fucking awesome. This is why I love being a biologist <3