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PhD candidate
Cassia Paragnani

I am a student of palaeontology. It’s a big statement, and is something I care deeply about. My interests in this field have afforded me many opportunities to understand the current state of the living world. I draw upon what information an ecosystem can give me, be it existing or preserved in rock, to infer information about creatures from the past/present or facilitate predictions about species in the future. Similarly, the morphology from an animal can be used to make informed deductions about its niche, environment or ancestry.

I have been able to employ a passion for conservation, ecology, geology, and zoology into all of my projects. In the past I have focused on Gondwanan life and involved myself with volunteer opportunities such as searching for amber in Tasmania, dinosaur digs in Victoria, or moving sauropod footprints in Queensland. During my Honours I was the first to conducted research on Australia’s oldest known fossil crocodylomorphs and was able to support climatic and environmental theories based on the bone morphology.

For my PhD I am researching the evolution of echidnas, looking at their fossil record, systematics and their relationships to each other. Echidnas are Australia’s most successful mammal spanning a wide range of environments and occurring throughout Australia and New Guinea. However, popular as they are today, relatively little is known about how species within the echidna family (Tachyglossidae) evolved. Using morphological information, I will define the extinct species of echidna and clarify their relationships through phylogenetic analysis.