Favourite Thing: Exploring the corners of the Earth for traces of lost worlds and forgotten lives, including hunting for fossils of the earliest life to vast dinosaurs and even our own ancestors.
Wells Blue School (1978-1985), University of Leicester (1985-1988), University of Manchester (1991-1993) and University of Sheffield (1994-1999).
BSc(Hons), MSc and PhD
Various Museums in the UK and then the University of Manchester.
I just got promoted to Professor of Natural History in the School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences.
University of Manchester
Me and my work
Studying the evolution of life on Earth is simply splendid fun and using vast ‘science machines’, such as the Diamond Lightsource, adds even more to the exploration of Life.
I am Director of the Interdisciplinary Centre for Ancient Life (ICAL) at the University of Manchester (UK). I have sustained a productive career, both as a scientist and as an active communicator of the science. My research is a natural extension of my curiosity and ability to ask new and challenging questions, often from disparate disciplines to my own field. The public engagement of science has never been a bolt-on activity for my research, but a central philosophy that has guided and complemented my work. I work hard to integrate the latest scientific discoveries within my public lectures, exhibits and outreach activities throughout the globe.
A pivotal theme of my research is the study the multiple contemporary problems of natural-resource conservation and environmental quality and how they relate to the history of life on Earth. My work explores both the past and present interactions of processes that integrate the four terrestrial spheres: lithosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere and biosphere. My team and I have developed a productive research programme that exploits the hindsight that the fossil record uniquely provides. Field exploration of the Earth’s prehistoric past has been central to my career. In the past 25 years I has excavated the fossil remains of dinosaurs and associated beasties from the Hell Creek Formation of South Dakota, North Dakota and Montana (USA). I have also led successful palaeontological expeditions to sites in South America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia.
In 2013 I was appointed as the Science and Technology Research Council (STFC) Science in Society Fellow, so as to further promote science and technology to as wide an audience as possible.
I regularly update my ‘Dinosaur CSI’ blog on our work, research and exploration (http://dinosaursabbatical.blogspot.co.uk/).
My Typical Day
…is there such a thing?
I feel lucky that almost every day brings new fun and challenges. The research group in which I work is broad and offers so many different ways to approach the study of life on Earth.
What I'd do with the money
Any monies that I earn from such activities get put back into getting my students and I to deliver outreach activities to schools across the UK.
As an STFC Science in Society Fellow I get to deliver talks all over the UK. I often try and drag my students along with me to events, but often there is limited funding to help support their travel. The £500 would be used to fund such trips for my undergraduates and help jump-start their careers as scientists and communicators!
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Explorer, Author, Scientist
Who is your favourite singer or band?
What's your favourite food?
Cheese on toast!
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Work for the University of Manchester…
What did you want to be after you left school?
Less confused and more focused…
Were you ever in trouble in at school?
What was your favourite subject at school?
What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?
Working within an interdisciplinary team….as this is always an exciting environment to learn new things.
What or who inspired you to become a scientist?
Sir David Attenborough
If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?
….possibly a wildlife photographer, if I could get the work!
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
I find that hard work tends to work better than wishes.
Tell us a joke.
What is brown and sticky?……………………………………………………….A stick!