We’re now in the final week leading up to TetZooCon 2015 – the second-ever Tetrapod Zoology convention. It’s being held at the London Wetland Centre (Barnes, west London) on Saturday 14th November. We’re just about fully booked and are in the final throws of getting everything together. If you still plan to attend, you’d better book quickly (here). I’m looking forward to seeing friends and colleagues from across the TetZooniverse once more.

I’m also really thrilled by the line-up of speakers we have. They include ‘Urban Birder’ David Lindo on ‘Tales From The Concrete Jungle’, author-artist Katrina van Grouw on ‘A Very Fine Swan Indeed: Art, Science and The Unfeathered Bird’, pterosaur expert David Unwin on ‘Getting Things Wrong, How it Happens and Why it Matters – an Exploration Using Pterosaurs’, Matt Salusbury on ‘Living Pygmy Elephants?’ and others.

Virtually all of the talks have tie-ins with published or media work. David Lindo’s promotion and celebration of urban birding and its importance (both to birds and urbanite humans) is well known thanks to his book (Lindo 2011) and numerous articles and media appearances. This year, BBC Wildlife voted him the seventh most influential wildlife-themed personality worldwide, which is quite the accolade. Katrina van Grouw will be well known to Tet Zoo regulars, her amazing and rightfully popular book The Unfeathered Bird (van Grouw 2013) – reviewed here in June 2014 – making her a major force as goes the art-science interface.

Low-res montage of some of Katrina van Grouw's outstanding bird illustrations, from The Unfeathered Bird. (c) Katrina van Grouw.

Matt Salusbury’s pygmy elephant-themed investigations were the subject of his recent book (Salusbury 2014) and you’ll be familiar with Vicky Coules’ work if you’ve seen, or read about, The Future Is Wild, since she wrote it. Among her many other works, she wrote Alien Empire (a TV series about arthropod diversity and biology) and produced Nat Geo’s recent Drain the Ocean. We also have talks on cutting-edge palaeontology: Jessica Lawrence-Wujek has been collecting stacks of data on the Jurassic ichthyosaur Ichthyosaurus and is going to tell us why ichthyosaurs are so awesome while pterosaur expert Dave Unwin is going to share original thoughts on the shape of pterosaur science.

I'm not saying what this is about but I'm sure you can work it out. It's an image from my presentation on sea monsters. Image by Darren Naish.

My own talk is on the evolution of ideas pertaining to sea monsters. That’s sea monsters of the cryptozoological sort, not of the Mesozoic. The influence of Heuvelmans and Sanderson in particular led to a cryptozoology that was increasingly divorced from ‘mainstream’ biology, not married with it as they claimed. This research ties speculative evolution together with eyewitness data on sea monsters and more. Two books do the same sort of thing with crypto-hominids (Buhs 2009, Regal 2011), and I really wish I’d read those books sooner.  Anyway, these thoughts are going into a paper (as yet unfinished) and into a book, currently at proof stage. More on that in the near future. And, yes, my talk has some degree of tie-in with The Cryptozoologicon (Conway et al. 2013).

Draft cover of Mark Witton's new book (from here on Mark's blog). Hopefully there will be a stack of them at TetZooCon.

Finally, there’s our fun palaeoart workshop event – led by John Conway, Mark Witton and Bob Nicholls – a quiz, and a crap-ton of art and merchandise.  Yes, there will be palaeoplushies and book signings. Mark Witton’s new book – the draft title is Reconstructing an Age of Reptiles – should be there [UPDATE: probably not, I’m afraid. Mark has been unable to get it ready in time due to other commitments].

The eventual and not unreasonably optimistic aim is to have TetZooCon be a grand, several-days-long event that might be footloose enough to escape the confines of southern England and draw in a more international crowd, but this will only work once the event has grown enough that we have cash in the... podcat. Obviously, we’re still in the earliest stages – but things are looking good.

Meanwhile, if you want to know what happens at the event either ask a question here, or follow #TetZooCon on twitter. I’m hoping for a very interactive livetweeting event.

So – to those of you coming along: see you there! To those of you not coming along, watch the twitter feed, and support us if you can. This is only the second of these events, and we hope it to become a bigger and better thing over time.

For Tet Zoo articles relevant to various of the things mentioned here, see...

Refs - -

Buhs, J. B. 2009. Bigfoot: The Life and Times of a Legend. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

Conway, J., Kosemen, C. M. & Naish, D. 2013. Cryptozoologicon Volume I. Irregular Books.

Lindo, D. 2011. The Urban Birder. New Holland, London.

Regal, B. 2011. Searching for Sasquatch: Crackpots, Eggheads, and Cryptozoology. Palgrave Macmillan, New York.

Salusbury, M. 2014. Pygmy Elephants: On the Track of the World’s Largest Dwarfs. CFZ Press, Bideford.

van Grouw, K. 2013. The Unfeathered Bird. Princeton University Press, Princeton and Oxford.