150 things about Canadian palaeo, part 7 – Current Canadian Palaeos (1) #FossilFriday

Who are some of the current Canadian palaeontologists? A few weeks ago I introduced you to some of the early figures in Canadian palaeontology, but the field has grown substantially, and there are a lot of Canadian palaeontologists, and people working on palaeontology in Canada now. This is going to be the first of a few posts, since there are so many! Starting at 43/150, in no particular order, the first 8 current Canadian palaeos:

43. Professor Philip Currie really needs no introduction, and I’m sure most people reading this blog will already know who he is. Currently a professor at the University of Alberta, he has really been responsible for putting Alberta dinosaurs on the map (so to speak), and bring people’s focus to the amazing fossil resource present in Alberta. Phil was my supervisor for my undergraduate thesis, and I really owe a lot to him for getting me into the research world, even though he terrified me at first! I still remember my first meeting with him, realising I was sitting in front of someone I looked up to growing up, and having no idea what to say… If you want to hear a bit about some of his work in Alberta, you can check out the interview I did with him for Palaeocast a few years ago (sorry about the random website, our site is down after being hacked…).

Phil Currie let my niece Abigail and I tag along at one of their digs so Abigail could see what a real dinosaur dig was like!

44. Of course you can’t talk about Phil without mentioning his wife, fellow palaeontologist Assistant Professor Eva Koppelhus. Eva is a palaeobotanist and palynologist, working on fossil plant and pollen. She has recently taken on the monumental task of organising and curating the University of Alberta’s palaeobotany collection. Her botany and palynology background is vital in helping to understand the environment these animals were living in.

45. McGill University is home to Professor Hans Larsson, who focuses on macroevolution, and evolutionary development. While he goes on digs and works on fossils found from around the world, his research really is based on large evolutionary questions such as the evolution of birds, using a combination of fossils and modern animals.

46. Professor Hillary Maddin of Carleton University studies large-scale morphological evolution focussing on amphibians as models. She uses a large number of integrated approaches including vertebrate palaeontology, developmental biology, and experimental genetics to better understand aspects of morphological diversity.

47. The University of Toronto, Mississauga campus is home to Professor Robert Reisz, a vertebrate palaeontologist who works on early evolution of reptiles, synapsids, and dinosaurs. In general, he’s interested in Paleozoic amniote evolution, which provides a window into how early radiations grew into animals we know today.

48. We also have mammal palaeontologists! Associate Professor Jessica Theodor at the University of Calgary uses ungulates (hoofed mammals) as a model to look at diversity patterns in animals over time.

49. Of course science isn’t just at universities, we also have plenty of museums that feature palaeontologists. Dr. Jordan Mallon is a research palaeontologist at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa where he works on dinosaur ecology and dinosaur diversity leading up to the big extinction at the end of the Cretaceous. He has worked a lot on ceratopsian dinosaurs (horned dinos), and mostly works on herbivorous dinosaurs.

50. Don’t worry, there are also invertebrate palaeontologists, and Associate Professor Lindsey Leighton from the University of Alberta is doing some pretty cool research. He spends a lot of time looking at predator-prey relationships, how these have changed and affected biodiversity over time, and how specific features allow a species to survive through time. In a time when species are rapidly going extinct and climate change is wreaking havoc on our planet, this research is extremely important at understanding how animals can survive changing ecosystems. If you want to hear more, you can check out this Palaeocast interview I did with him a few years ago.

Obviously this is not anywhere near the number of palaeontologists in Canada. I’m going to do at least one other post, possibly more featuring some other palaeos from around the country (and some Canadians abroad as well potentially), so if I’ve missed someone you think should be on here, don’t worry, hopefully I’ll get to them! But if there is someone else you think I should mention, let me know, because I may not have remembered. Let’s see how many Canadian palaeos we can find!

The series:

Part 1: Intro

Part 2: The Burgess Shale

Part 3: Early Canadian Palaeontologists

Part 4: Canadian Fossil Names

Part 5: Dinosaur Provincial Park

Part 6: Marine Fossils

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