So I hit the 9 month barrier for my PhD the other day. Where ze hell did all that time go??
Well, you can actually see if you want – I’ve uploaded the 9 month report to Figshare, excluding the preliminary results (which are beginning to look awesome btw). You can find it here: http://figshare.com/articles/9_month_PhD_report/738023, where it’s already had almost 200 hits. Figshare is so awesome it hurts.
The primary task is to assess biodiversity patterns over the Jurassic/Cretaceous interval
Primary data collection for this is now complete, and some preliminary stats run on it to account for imperfections in the fossil record
There is a hell of a lot to do
I’m actually in Munich at the moment, working on alternative route to assessing this first point. I’m using a method called ‘phylogenetic diversity’, which essentially maps evolutionary trees onto time (stratigraphy), and you can interpolate where you know species should be but haven’t been found, based on their evolutionary relationships and artificially inflate diversity through time. I’m doing this for about 500 species atm, so it’s taking a lot of time, but looking pretty awesome atm – stay tuned!
Oh, the title? Not a clue – I’ve only had one coffee. PhD research is tough – you work long hours, do difficult work, and get paid a pittance, so times it can be a bit much, but it’s totally worth it; there are many paths the research could take; and thyme, never enough thyme..
Anyway, have a flick through and let me know what you think! If you think there’s something I’m missing, or an avenue in particular you’d like me to explore, drop a comment here (this is funded by UK taxpayers’ cashmoney after all)
Dinosaurs. What springs to mind when they’re mentioned? Colossal, towering sauropods? Packs of feisty feathered fiends? Or huge herds of hadrosaurs, chomping their way across the plains of long-lost worlds? Most, including myself, will automatically default to any one of these images when dinosaurs come up in conversation (what, you mean it’s not that frequent for normal people?) But we often neglect to think the earliest dinosaurs, spectacular organisms that gave birth to the most successful, and on-going, terrestrial vertebrate radiation of all time.
How can the dead help the living? This is a question a lot of fossil-fanatics have bent a lot of time towards over recent years, partially due to a desire to make palaeontology ‘relevant’ as a modern science, and secondly to help guide our efforts in conservation biology. A new series, edited by my supervisor Dr. Phil Mannion and others, focusses on the way we interpret palaeobiodiversity, biodiversity in the fossil record, for different groups and the issues and solutions facing the field. The final article in the volume struck me in particular.
How can fossils help us to protect these now and in the future? Source.
Crikey, it’s been 3 months already?! *panics* At Imperial College, new PhD students have to produce an initial plan of study within the first three months of setting off, and submit it for independent assessment. Having uploaded mine just now (not in the slightest bit late..), I figured I’d share it here! It’s a broad outline of what I’m aiming to do for the next wad of months – any comments or feedback will be massively appreciated!
Proposed title of thesis: Diversity crash at the Jurassic/Cretaceous boundary: a forgotten mass extinction?
Recently, a really important paper by Alex Dunhill of Bristol University, UK, (@AlexDunhill on Twitter) has been published looking at the problems of using rock outcrop area as a sampling proxy for understanding patterns of biodiversity in deep geological time. What this paper highlights is the important distinction between geological and anthropological sampling proxies, and their relative importance in an on-going international series of projects and collaborations in understanding the patterns and processes that influence biodiversity through geological time.
The reason that this topic is so thoroughly studied are two-fold. Firstly, the co-evolution of the Earth and it’s floral and faunal constituents through time is one of the most important questions of our time, relying on integration of molecular systematists, palaeontologists, geologists, zoologists and botanists (and microbiologists, I guess..). Secondly, understanding the responses of organisms during times of high ecological pressure, high global extinction rates, and strong climatic fluctuations is of obvious importance in the modern world, during this time of rapid global climate change and increasing anthropogenic pressure on the environment. Therefore, studies like this are crucial in aiding our understanding the diversity dynamics of extinct, but still highly relevant, groups. Continue reading →