Growing up in New Zealand, a place well-known for its birds – especially prehistoric ones – it is perhaps fitting that I have been drawn to study them. Chasing palaeontology from a young age, subjects at high school and beyond were chosen with this passion in mind; getting in contact with local palaeontologists to steer me in the right direction. After completing a Master’s degree at University of Canterbury, I flew to South Australia to expand my horizons, and pursue fossil birds throughout Australasia and the world.
Today I am a Ph.D. student in the Palaeontology research group at Flinders University. My interests involve the pathways and processes surrounding the evolution of birds, including the evolution of flight loss. My research is predominately focused on a widespread group of typically wetland birds called rails (including birds like moorhens, coots, swamphens and kin), particularly those that lived 34 to 5 million years ago, during the Oligocene and Miocene. These successful birds are also known for their repeated evolutionary tendency to evolve flightlessness, a condition that can be seen in bones, which makes them a particularly interesting and challenging group to study. My research aims to shed light on the relationships of ancient forms to their living counterparts, to expand on the understanding of the origins of rails and the patterns of their modern radiation. I am also involved in projects aimed at developing our understanding of the early Miocene (19-16 million-year-old) St Bathans fauna of New Zealand, 60 million-year-old penguin fossils from New Zealand, and the enigmatic Dromornithidae of Australia.
As part of the Flinders Palaeontology Research Group, I am grateful to be involved in the Bachelor of Science (Palaeontology) degree, where I teach part of the Scientific Illustration topic, teach phylogenetic inference in the 3rd year Vertebrate Palaeontology, supervise student research projects for 2nd year Vertebrate Form and Function, and assist in tuition where palaeoornithology is a focus. Since 2020, I have also been preparing bird skeletons for the Flinders University Vertebrate Collection.
Here at Flinders University, I am grateful to be in arm’s reach of such a diverse assemblage of fossils, a world-class laboratory, and surrounded by so many experienced, passionate peers, with an extensive knowledgebase. An unparalleled environment for opportunities, to share and build on ideas, and ultimately bring fossils back to life.