Episode 91: Dinosaurs of Appalachia

The Appalachian mountains, span the Eastern margin of the United States of America. They are predominantly composed of Paleozoic rocks, but Mesozoic marine sediments (formed adjacent to the Appalachian continent at the time) can be found along the Eastern coast. It is within these deposits that the remains of a unique dinosaur fauna can be found. Joining us to paint a picture of the vertebrate faunas of Appalachia during the Mesozoic is Chase Brownstein, research associate…

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Being a Postgraduate Palaeontologist in 2018

Since I was child, I wanted to pursue a career in palaeontology.  As I am now starting my career as a postgraduate student in the palaeontological field, I have noticed that it has been filled with quite interesting twists and turns. One thing that I can say about the environment right now is that it is very competitive (particularly in the United States).  I applied to graduate school twice: first when I was near the…

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Episode 90: Ichthyornis

Bird evolution has long fascinated palaeontologists. Despite crown-group birds (birds giving rise to modern lineages today) evolving during the Cretaceous, there are relatively few fossils from this time, making it difficult to understand this key time period and just exactly how modern birds came to be. Dr. Daniel Field, 50th Anniversary Prize Fellow from the University of Bath, studies bird evolution, particularly how crown-group birds evolved. In this episode, we discuss his recent paper on…

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Episode 89: Teeth and herbivory in reptiles

Tooth shape and arrangement is strongly linked with diet, and palaeontologists often use teeth to determine what kind of food an animal may have been eating. Carnivorous teeth are generally more simple, while herbivorous teeth are more complicated. We know that herbivory evolved later, but how did the dentition of herbivores evolve? What kind of variation exists in herbivorous dentition? In this episode, we speak with Dr Aaron LeBlanc, a Killam Postdoctoral Fellow at the…

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My Green OA experience

As many of you may know from my random musings, you’ll know that I am a supporter of the idea of Open Access publishing. I strongly believe that research should be open to everyone, and think it’s unfair that universities have to shell out millions to get access to material, especially when it’s government funded. However, you may also know that I did my PhD self-funded (or at least not funded by the UK government),…

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Episode 88: Bacula

The buculum is a bone present in the head of the penis of most mammals. Whilst a few mammals, like us, don’t possess a baculum, some have greatly reduced versions and many have very elaborate shapes. Despite this variety in expression of the baculum, its function remains elusive, though many theories exist. Investigating the function of this bone is Dr Charlotte Brassey, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK, and she joins us for this episode to give…

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Don’t do PR before the paper’s out

Recently, information about a “new” species of pterosaur has been making the rounds. This is not a new phenomenon – stories like this often make the news. This animal has been touted as the largest pterosaur ever, and was reportedly flightless, both things making this an extremely significant animal in terms of understanding pterosaur diversity and ecology. That is, if it’s true. Extraordinary claims, such as largest pterosaur or first flightless pterosaur, require extraordinary evidence. The…

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I’m an entrepreneur?

Last night, I had a chance to see the wonderful documentary Dream, Girl, all about female entrepreneurs. It was great to see these stories of successful female businesswomen, now CEO’s of their own companies, who had a dream, and made it happen, regardless of the risks. A few things resonated with me – stories of women being glanced over at business meetings in favour of the male partner, unreasonable expectations for women with families that…

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Episode 87: Archaeopteryx

Archaeopteryx is perhaps one of the most iconic taxa in the fossil record. Exclusively found in the Early Jurassic Solnhofen Lagerstätte in Bavaria, Germany, it is a crucial taxon for understanding the relationship between dinosaurs and birds. Furthermore, it is critically positioned to inform us how flight evolved in this group. Now, a new study published in Nature Communications, has been inferring how Archaeopteryx was able to fly by examining details of its bones. In…

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Sometimes scientists make mistakes…

…and that’s ok! I think it’s important to talk about what happens when we do make mistakes, and the importance of it. Sometimes you misinterpret data, or do the wrong analysis, or get something wrong. Normally these things are caught in peer review, but sometimes the mistake is so difficult to catch, that it even gets through peer review. Now I’m not talking here about new discoveries that years later turn out to falsify someone…

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