Simone Conti, who completed the MSc in 2018, has published his Masters thesis on ‘The oldest lambeosaurine dinosaur from Europe: Insights into the arrival of Tsintaosaurini’ in Cretaceous Research for April 2020. He had the chance to work on some beautiful specimens from Spain, and it turns out the new specimens prove the existence of an unusual group of hadrosaurs, the Tsintaosaurini, in Europe, a group otherwise known from eastern Asia. Members of the tsintaosaurine tribe would have dispersed into the Ibero-Armorican Domain not later than the early Maastrichtian, coexisting with endemic dinosaurian groups for some time. Simone is now beginning his PhD in Portugal on the biomechanics of diplodocid sauropods, using engineering techniques, such as Finite Element Analyses and Multi-Body Simulation Systems. It is a joint PhD between the Aerospace Department of Politecnico of Milan (Italy) and the Geology Department of Universidade Nova of Lisbon (Portugal). You can read Simone’s paper here. The image shows the femur of Simone’s Spanish dinosaur.
Emma Schachner, who completed the Bristol MSc a while ago and is now a Professor at Louisiana State University, gave a TED talk at her University last year about her work on respiration in vertebrates and what this tells us about the origin and success of dinosaurs. The talk has now been selected to go live on the international TED talks site, and you can watch it here. The photo shows Emma and one of her greatest fans.
Bristol City Museum has shrouded some of its exhibits to highlight the impending risk of their extinction. This striking exhibit has been featured in an article in The Guardian, and is attracting widespread attention. Isla graduated from the Bristol MSc in Palaeobiology some years ago, and has since worked in a number of museum jobs. She is currently Curator of Natural History at the Museum.
Isla said, “The extinction crisis is causing a lot of anxiety among people. We have a unique role to play with our animal stories and histories, and in creating a space for conversation and doing something positive to raise awareness. We want to help people imagine a world without these incredible creatures.”
She is shown with a stuffed Bengal tiger, once represented by 100,000 individuals, now only 4000. “Some animals on the list are surprising, like the giraffe and chimp,” she says. “Familiarity is part of the problem. Extinctions can be silent, especially as many iconic animals seem a common part of our everyday culture.”
Emma Bernard, Curator of Fossil Fish at the Natural History Museum, has just taken part in the ‘Mission Jurassic’ excavations in Wyoming. These are a partnership between The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis (project lead), with the Natural History Museum, the University of Manchester and Naturalis (Leiden).
A key part of the programme was to document the geology and all fossils, not just the dinosaurs, and Emma was there to keep an eye on this wider range of finds. Emma completed the MSc in Palaeobiology in Bristol in 2007, and did a variety of jobs before getting the Curator position.
As she reports on her NHM web page, “I participate and lead in a number of outreach events every year, such as the Lyme Regis Fossil Festival. I regularly take part in collection enhancing fieldwork all around the world; America, Morocco, France and have lead field teams to various localities within the UK.” Here she is leaving the BBC (yet again) after a live interview on Radio 5 about the recent dig.
In a recent excavation in the Morrison Formation in Wyoming, former Bristol MSc students, Joe Bonsor has been a key participant. This is the ‘Mission Jurassic’ enterprise between the Natural History Museum and the Children’s Science Museum in Indianapolis. Joe completed the MSc in 2010, and is currently completing a PhD on ‘The taxonomy and phylogeny of the Wealden iguanodontian dinosaurs’ jointly between University of Bath and the Natural History Museum. With his PhD supervisor, Dr Susie Maidment, Joe has had the adventure of his life, excavating classic dinosaurs and speaking to the press. Joe loved every minute of it and all the recent press interest ‘makes him want to go back!’
Read more on the special BBC web page.
Congratulations to MSc graduate Amy Ball, who has just published her first book, The Rocking Book of Rocks. The book written with Florence Bullough and illustrated by Anna Alanka is published by Wide-Eyed Editions and is aimed at children aged 8-11. You can find out more about the book here. Amy currently works as the Education Officer for the Geological Society of London.
Congratulations to former MSc student Albert Chen whose MSc research on pancrustacean phylogenomics was published in Genome Biology and Evolution. You can read the full paper here.
Congratulations to Rob Brocklehurst for publishing the first paper from his MSc project. This looks at the differences between the cranial muscles of fish that feed by suction feeding and those that feed by biting. The paper is published in the Journal of Anatomy.
Many congratulations to Neil Adams for publishing his MSc thesis on competition between rodents and extinct multituberculate mammals. The paper is published in Royal Society Open Science and you can read it here.
Congratulations to Adam Smith, curator of natural sciences, Nottingham City Council, who completed the MSc in Palaeobiology in 2003, and a PhD on plesiosaurs, in Dublin, in 2007. Adam has just been awarded a share of a grant of £200,000 awarded to seven curators in various museums around the country. His proposal is to research and display the museum’s nationally significant herbarium collection.
The Headley Fellowships with Art Fund is designed to help curators take time away from their day-to-day responsibilities to carry out in-depth research into their museum’s collection. The funding is linked to the ongoing decline in public spending on museums and galleries in England, which has fallen 13% in real terms over the past decade.
During his time in Nottingham, Adam has staged several highly successful exhibitions, including a massive exhibition in 2017 and 2018 on Chinese dinosaurs.
More details of the award are here.
Here is Adam, hiding down at bottom left (green trousers), behind Chris Packham, who opened the dinosaur exhibition in 2017.
Bethany Allen, who graduated from the MSc in 2017 and is working on her PhD at the University of Leeds, writes about her active outreach and engagement work here.
Congratulations to Richie Howard who has published his MSc project on the evolution and terrestrialization of scorpions. Richie, who is now a PhD
student in Exeter has published his findings in the journal Organisms, Diversity & Evolution and it is available open access here:
Here’s one of our great Bristol MSc in Palaeobiology graduates Emma Schachner, surveying her very successful career so far. As she says, The Bristol MSc ‘was like boot camp for paleontology. They throw you in the deep end and see if you can sink or swim. I loved it, and then came back to the US for my PhD.’ She is now a Professor at LSU Health Sciences Center in New Orleans, where she uses her palaeontological skills, combined with remarkable artistic skills, and a love of vertebrate anatomy to study questions about the evolution of physiology and the origin of the dinosaurs.
Congratulations to Antonio Ballell Mayoral who has won the Geologist’s Association’s Curry MSc Prize. This award is for the best MSc thesis in the country on an Earth Science topic and has a £1000 prize. Antonio won for his thesis on morphofunctional trends in Crocodylomorpha. Antonio is the third Bristol Palaeobiology student to win this prize after Nick Crumpton in 2010 and Karina Vanadzina in 2017.