I swear I’m not making this up: I was recently contacted by one of our patrons, who said he’d like to support us at the SV-POW! Patreon at $10/month. We didn’t have that tier at the time, only $1/mo. and $5/mo. So to accommodate him, and any others who theoretically might like to support us at that level, we created a $10 tier. There’s a new reward to go with this tier: in addition to being acknowledged in any papers that get written as a result of a trip that you help to fund, at $10/month you’ll also get an 8×10 art print once a year, either one of my skull drawings or a photograph, signed or unsigned. Here’s the link.

Our support is up to $57/mo. That might not sound like much, but $7/mo. is $84/yr., which is what we wanted when Mike launched the Patreon so we could get rid of ads on the site. The other $50/mo. is $600/yr., which is roughly the cost of a trans-Atlantic plane ticket. So that’s already one Matt-and-Mike get-together a year to do research and write papers, in addition to any others we were going to do anyway.

What would we do with more support? More research, and more writing. I get small grants now and then, and I get a yearly travel budget from my department, but grant-writing takes time away from research and paper-writing, and the departmental travel money doesn’t cover all the things I’d like to do. For example, I skipped SVPCA in 2018 so I could visit the Carnegie last spring. That’s a tough choice, a whole conference worth of ideas and conversations that I missed out on. And Mike is basically self-funded. We’re pretty good at converting travel money into new ideas and new data, and we’re going to start doing writing retreats where we hole up someplace cheap, far from museums, field sites, and other distractions, and just write. So if you like the stuff we do, please consider supporting us–we promise not to waste your donation.

Many thanks to everyone who supports our work, and to everyone else for sitting through this post. In the spirit of giving you more than you asked for, up top is the cervicodorsal transition in Giraffatitan brancai, MB.R.2181, in my favorite, inconvenient portrait orientation. And here’s a version with the centrum lengths and posterior widths given in cm. From Janensch (1950: figs. 49 and 50).


Janensch, Werner. 1950. Die Wirbelsaule von Brachiosaurus brancai. Palaeontographica (Suppl. 7) 3: 27-93.

It’s a bit shocking to find that SV-POW! is going on for twelve years old. (Our very first post was on 1st October 2007, so we’re about fifty days short of that anniversary.)

It’s cost us almost nothing to run the blog in that time — in financial terms, at least. We pay $18 a year for the domain svpow.com (as opposed to svpow.wordpress.com), and that’s it. We’ve been happy to pay out of our own pockets, because not taking any money from anyone means we don’t owe anyone anything and we can write what we like, on whatever subject we like, as often or as infrequently as we like. It’s a great way to do things.

But there are a couple more things we’d like to do.

One is to get rid of the adverts that infest the site. I wasn’t aware of them until recently, when I looked at the site on a new phone. They’re pretty intrusive, and I remember reading somewhere that they’ve got a lot worse recently. We can do that for $7 a month, which comes to $84 per year. That’s enough that I can’t just shrug like I do with the $18 and say “Ah, that’s the price of a round of drinks, just pay it.”

But more excitingly, Matt and I would like to get together more often for scientific trips like the 2016 Sauropocalypse and this year’s visit to the Carnegie museum. These trips are amazingly productive and generate a ton of observations, photos and videos, which we’re then able to turn into science, which in turn becomes papers. But because Matt and I are inconveniently located 5,000 miles and eight timezones apart, it’s logistically difficult and expensive for us to get together. That’s why we had a three-year gap between the Utah and Carnegie trips, and we’d like — if we can — to do something like this every year.

Here I am, in the collections of the Carnegie Museum, Pittsburgh, earlier this year. I’m documenting the re-articulated centrum, neural arch and cervical ribs of C6 of the sub-adult apatosaurine CM 555, probably Brontosaurus parvus.

Why are these trips important to do? Because we’ve found that when both of us look at bones together, we see much more than twice as much as either of us would see alone. There seems to be a subtle alchemy at play here, like the way Lennon and McCartney achieved so much more when they were working together than they did after the Beatles split(*). Somehow, there is a sparking that happens, as each of us amplifies and re-interprets the other’s observations. (Probably the same thing happens for any two palaeontologists looking at bones together, but Matt and I have got into the habit of working together.)

To do more of this, we need more money: Matt’s travel funds are limited; mine are literally non-existent, and I have to fund all my own work out of money that I earn by the sweat of my brow (and burn up precious vacation days from my real job).

That’s why we’ve finally created a Patreon page where anyone who wants to can sign up to support the work we do here. We have no idea whether this will work out, but whatever money might accumulate, we will spend first on the basic running costs of the site ($18 + $84 = $102 per year), and then on research trips. The big-ticket items are travel (including a transatlantic flight for one of us) and accomodation. After that, it’s just food and drink, which we pay for ourselves since we’d be eating and drinking anyway.

What do you get in return for your money? Absolutely nothing. This is really important. It goes back to what I said earlier about how valuable it’s been to us that we are free to write what we want, when we want. We’re not going to sacrifice that freedom for money, and in fact the value of that freedom is exactly why we’ve never solicited any kind of donation before. We want to be 100% clear that basic-level subscribers get nothing for their money. No early access, no extra content, no physical rewards. Just the knowledge that you’re supporting a blog that you like and helping to make sauropod science happen. It will only take nine of you to subscribe at the base $1-per-month level to pay our WordPress fees.

But for anyone who chooses to support the SV-POW! research trips at the level of $5 per month or higher, there is one small reward: we’ll then consider you as a research funder, and will formally mention you as such in the acknowledgements of the first paper that comes out of the first research trip we do after you sign up. That’s a place — admittedly a small one — in the permanent scientific record. Plus of course you get our gratitude!

UPDATE Feb. 2020: We added a $10/month tier, with a small additional reward.

For those who don’t sign up, absolutely nothing will change. We’ll continue our usual erratic schedule of posting whatever happens to occur to us, when it occurs to us. You’ll still get immediate access to everything we write for the blog, just like those who do sign up.

So: if you would like to help finance the scientific mission of SV-POW!, get yourself over to https://www.patreon.com/svpow


(*) “But Mike”, you say, “After the first few years, the Lennon-McCartney partnership was in name only, and they hardly contributed to each other’s songs”. And you’re right: while We Can Work It Out was a true 50-50 collaboration, lots of the later songs were essentially solo compositions. But here’s the thing: even then, the mere presence of the other partner pushed them to up their game. John Lennon may have made no concrete contribution to Hey Jude (beyond telling Paul that he should keep his placeholder lyric “The movement you need is on your shoulder”), but McCartney only landed that song as perfectly as he did because Lennon was around. If you want proof, look at his post-Beatles songwriting output. There are plenty of good songs, but almost no great ones: Maybe I’m Amazed would be the strongest contender, and it turns out (I just this moment looked it up on Wikipedia) that he wrote that before the Beatles broke up. In a similar way, I wrote all but a couple of paragraphs of the actual prose in our in-progress vertebral orientation manuscript, but it all emerged from discussion between us, and could never have happened without Matt. He’s my John Lennon. But he lives on a different continent. Dammit.