About protohedgehog

Proto-palaeontologist, working on a PhD at Imperial College in vertebrate macroevolution (dinosaurs et al!). Sci comm and sci policy geek. Podcasts at www.palaeocast.com, blogs at http://fossilsandshit.wordpress.com/ and http://blogs.egu.eu/palaeoblog/. Tweets as @protohedgehog

Last dinosaur of its kind found in the land that time forgot

This was originally posted at: http://blogs.egu.eu/palaeoblog/?p=1241

In terms of iconic dinosaurs, the gargantuan sauropods are certainly up there. Along with the mostly meat eating-theropods, and herbivorous and often armoured ornithischians, they form one of the three major groups, or clades, of dinosaurs, and were the biggest animals to ever walk this Earth.

The end of the Jurassic period, some 145 million years ago, was a pretty important time for sauropods. Their diversity was already in decline through some of the latter part of the Jurassic, but it seems that they were hit pretty badly at the Jurassic/Cretaceous (J/K) boundary, in an extinction event that may have been quite severe among land and marine-dwelling animals.

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Social Media and the Seven Twitter Accounts

This was originally posted at: http://blogs.egu.eu/palaeoblog/?p=1232

“Postpublication peer review on social media is like the mosh pit at a punk rock conference. It’s fast, uncoordinated, a lot less subtle, more in your face, and involves a few more risks.’

Peer review is the cornerstone of scientific legitimacy – it is the process where research is analysed by your professional peers. Traditionally, this has been conducted before the publication of an article. However, with the advent of the digital age of communications, particularly with regards to social media and the advent of ‘Web 2.0′, things are beginning to change. We now have systems in place where not just experts, but anyone, can comment on and evaluate research at many stages of the research publication process.

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Your bite or mine?

This was originally posted at: http://blogs.egu.eu/palaeoblog/?p=1250

It rises from the dark waters like some behemoth from the deep, and lets out a blood-curdling roar. It’s feeding time. One of the most iconic scenes from Jurassic Park III is where the long-snouted, sail-backed giant theropod dinosaur Spinosaurus emerges from underwater to try, yet again, to eat our beleaguered rabble of misfortunates. It’s always been the way these dinosaurs have been portrayed, including one of Spinosaurus’ close cousins Baryonyx from the UK. With their long snouts, bulbous tips, and pointy teeth, it’s often been thought that spinosaurid dinosaurs were quite a lot like modern crocodiles. But how much of this is true?

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Another clue to the origins of dinosaurs

This was originally posted at: http://blogs.egu.eu/palaeoblog/?p=1222

Often the early evolution and radiation of the first dinosaurs is an overlooked part of their tale, in favour of the more dramatic but arguably no less important tales of their later radiations and extinctions. It is actually a fairly poorly understood part of their evolution too, with the timing, and actual mechanism that drove them to become the most successful land group ever still a bit of a mystery.

We are, however,  learning more and more about this important phase of their history, in a time known as the Late Triassic some 231-201 million years ago. A new fossil site from this time in Poland – probably not one of the places you’d associate with important fossils – is helping to fill in the blanks. Usually, dinosaur-bearing sites from around this time are known from the southwestern United States and southern South America, so a European locality can potentially tell us quite a bit!

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Are there issues when industry and academia team up for research?

This was originally posted at: http://blogs.egu.eu/palaeoblog/?p=1215

As an academic palaeontologist within a university, I have almost no industry links or prospects in my present or future. However, Dr. Alice Bell, science-policy aficionado, has invited me to join several distinguished guests in sparking a discussion about the links between industry and academia. This was following a twitter discussion (a twebate?) we both had following her post on the genesis of a partnership of sorts between one of the government-funded Research Councils, NERC, and fossil fuel giant Shell. It’s on May 20th at 7pm, the Fairly Square in London, and it would be great to see some of y’all there. I have a request beforehand though, for you to share your personal experiences or any thoughts and comments with the blog about links between industry and academia. Alice has set a number of target questions on her site.

The questions which I hope to address in my few minutes are:

  • Does increasing industry involvement alleviate the responsibility of the government to fund research?
  • What the implications of ‘strategy alignment’ between Research Councils and industry mean for research
  • The types of research that industry (Shell, maybe others) actually fund
  • The lack of obligation for industry to be open/transparent about the outputs of research (e.g., no OA obligation)
  • Overall implications for the impartiality/independence of research
If anyone has thoughts on these points, or those Alice has asked on her page, please do share them here. It would be useful to gather as broad experience as possible before delving into something that, admittedly, I am only familiar with on a general level and within my own department at university.

Spice up your science with these 10 simple steps

This was originally posted at http://blogs.egu.eu/palaeoblog/?p=1168

What an awful title, eh. Well, you can avoid making this mistake! A recent Guardian post by Conversation UK’s Akshat Rathi (he’s popular on the blog today!) discusses some of the common mistakes in popular science writing and how best to avoid them. It’s fairly general, and by no means exhaustive, and mainly for more writing about science than science writing (er, the latter being formal publication in peer-reviewed journal, I guess).

But a more interesting recent find was a wonderful paper by Kaj Sand-Jensen from 2007 entitled ‘How to write consistently boring scientific literature‘,  all about, well, you guessed it, avoiding some common pitfalls when writing science articles. So in true Buzzfeed style, here are the top 10 tips of how to be a terrible science writer, with some personal comments after.

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