An Embarrassment of Riches
One of the great pleasures in vertebrate paleontology is the opportunity to travel to exotic and even not so exotic places. For me this is especially true when I finally am able to meet a colleague with whom I have communicated for a number of years. Such was the case with Lev Nessov of St. Petersburg University. During the 1970s and 1980s Lev had almost single-handedly discovered and described a host of vertebrate species from the Mesozoic and early Tertiary rocks of western Asia. Our interests and expertise thus overlapped, not only with respect to taxa but also in time. Ever since graduate school in the 1970s I have been tracking what the fossils say about when and why the dinosaurs perished. Lev Nessov had unearthed important clues from the other side of the planet.
Lev and I finally had a chance to meet in 1990 at a conference in Almaty, the capital of the Republic of Kazakhstan within the then still extant Soviet Union. A hundred paleontologists and geologists had come from all over the world to discuss "Upper Cretaceous terrestrial correlation" with their Russian-speaking colleagues. My contribution was a talk on the correlation of fossils within the Upper Cretaceous rocks of North America--that is, about how to determine the age of the rocks and the fossils they contain.
The conference was held in a spacious and well-appointed hall that contained a large, rather intricate stone mosaic of Vladimir Ilyich