Life as a Palaeontologist

Life as a Palaeontologist: A thoroughly suitable job for a woman

Life as a Palaeontologist
by Ellen Currano1 “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door,” he used to say. “You step into the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.” — J. R. R. Tolkien The Fellowship of the Ring (Ballantine Books, 1954). Introduction: It was never part of my plan to become the (sometimes bearded) face of women in palaeontology. I was that first grader who fell in love with dinosaurs and set her heart on becoming a palaeontologist. Since I started college, my dream has been to work at the University of Wyoming, travel the world digging up fossils, publish papers in scientific journals and, if I was lucky, be asked to give public lectures on my work. In other words, I wanted to emulate the professors at the top-tier research insti

Life as a Palaeontologist: Palaeontology for dummies, Part 2

Life as a Palaeontologist
by Russell Garwood*1  Introduction In Palaeontology for Dummies, Part 1, we looked at modern palaeontology as a discipline, including the broad range of specialisms in the field. I hope it convinced you that palaeontology is an exciting and ever-expanding subject. Here, in the second part, we will focus on the birth and historical development of palaeontology, which has at times been highly controversial. We’ll first consider how humans and fossils interacted before science was formalized, then we will move on to the birth of palaeontology during the Enlightenment era in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. We will cover the field’s expansion and rapid development during the nineteenth century, and finish with a few of the most notable findings trends in the past century. For sake

Life as a palaeontologist: Palaeontology for dummies, Part 1

Life as a Palaeontologist
by Russell Garwood *1 pa·lae·on·tol·o·gy / pa·le·on·tol·o·gy noun /ˌpælɪɒnˈtɒlədʒi/ or /ˌpeɪlɪɒnˈtɒlədʒi/ — The scientific study of prehistoric life. Introduction Palaeontology. If you’re reading this, it is likely that you’ve already encountered this particular corner of the scientific world, and know what it involves. If not, welcome: I think palaeontology is awesome and I hope that by the end of this article, you will too. Either way, it never hurts to define terms. As the above definition says, palaeontology is the study of prehistoric life. The discipline is actually rather wide ranging, with many sub-disciplines, but it is fair to say that most forms encompass the study of fossils or their traces. This study allows us to better understand extinct organisms’ biology, evolutionary

Life as a Palaeontologist: Going solo and making a living out of working with fossils

Life as a Palaeontologist
by Leyla Seyfullah*1 Introduction: In an article on Palaeontology [online] last year, Sarah King explained how undertaking a PhD can help you to launch an academic career in palaeontology. Obtaining that PhD can be a frustrating yet ultimately rewarding experience, but it is only the beginning for many palaeontologists — and it is worth pointing out that a PhD isn't a prerequisite for certain jobs in palaeontology (for example, dealing fossils). Here, I hope to give you a sense of what might happen after the PhD, and how this could lead to a wide range of new challenges and take you down previously unimagined paths. You didn't think that getting a job in palaeontology would be straightforward, did you?! As a PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) student, you are dedicated to working on your doct

Life as a Palaeontologist: Academia, the Internet and Creative Commons

Life as a Palaeontologist
by Ross Mounce*1 Introduction: The results of scientific research can be of interest to experts and non-experts alike. This is perhaps especially true for palaeontology, which captures public interest — but obtaining access to this information is sometimes difficult, even for scientists. Taking a rather different tack from previous Palaeontology [online] articles, I'm going to provide a brief overview of how the Internet has changed and is significantly changing palaeontology and academia in general, helping to open up research for the greater benefit of science and society. When Sir Tim Berners-Lee helped to invent the World Wide Web more than 20 years ago, he did it 'for everyone' (see Fig. 1), and to this day he still campaigns to maintain open web standards. Had he patented hi

Life as a Palaeontologist: How I learnt to stop worrying and love the fossils

Life as a Palaeontologist
by Sarah King*1 Introduction: If you’re visiting this website, the chances are that you’re interested in palaeontology, perhaps even as a career. However, to someone who is not yet in academia, it may be difficult to imagine how to embark on such a career path, and the world of science can seem strange and inaccessible. Even though this perception is beginning to change, as science becomes more entrenched in the public consciousness — by means of popular television and radio programmes, among other things — and the public rightly demands to know where its money is being spent, the process of becoming a professional scientist and the day-to-day routine of a palaeontologist are still generally unknown to the majority of people. This article aims, in some small way, to rectify this. It w