Alumnus profile #1 – Dr Alex Dunhill

DSCF0418Dr Alex Dunhill – Research Fellow, University of Bath

PhD title: “The sampling proxy approach to testing the quality of the fossil record”

 

 

 

1. The Twitter Challenge: Describe your PhD in 140 characters
Assessing our knowledge of the fossil record by testing how the completeness of rock record affects biodiversity through Earth history

Fossil diversity through the Triassic and Jurassic of Great Britain compared to amount and type of rock preserved - most of my PhD data in one figure!
Fossil diversity through the Triassic and Jurassic of Great Britain compared to amount and type of rock preserved – most of my PhD data in one figure!

2. Where are you now? What are you doing?
I’m now a Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 Post-Doctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Biology and Biochemistry at the University of Bath. My current research focuses on assessing the role of biogeography in extinction events in the fossil record. I’m currently reconstructing the palaeogeographical ranges of terrestrial vertebrates through the Triassic and Jurassic periods, which will allow me to test for relationships between the geographic ranges of fossil organisms and their susceptibility to suffering extinction.

3. Why did you decide to stay in academia?
My main reason for wanting to stay in academia was that I thoroughly enjoyed my PhD at Bristol; the intellectual challenge, the opportunity to collaborate with world leaders in my field, the chance to contribute to research of international relevance, the way of life (e.g. freedom to work my own hours etc.) I also developed a number of new project ideas, building on my PhD research, and luckily the funding bodies liked them!

4. What is the most useful thing you learnt in your PhD?
In addition to gaining an in-depth knowledge of your subject area, I think the most important things you learn during your PhD are those skills that can be applied to future work, whether this be field skills, lab skills or computing skills etc. As my project was entirely data-based, the skills I developed in using ArcGIS (Geographic Information System) software and the statistical knowledge I gained have been the most valuable.

5. Is there any advice you wish you had taken?
I can’t really think of an answer to this really. Everything has gone roughly to plan and, of course, I ALWAYS take on board all the advice offered by my supervisors!

6. Your best travel perk
Unfortunately, my PhD project didn’t involve any fieldwork and the majority of my data was UK based, derived from the databases of the British Geological Survey. The only opportunity I had for overseas travel was to attend conferences. The furthest I managed was a trip to North Carolina, USA, for the Geological Society of America Annual Meeting in November 2012. However, this did give me the opportunity to indulge in one of my favourite pastimes, eating pigs (BBQ pork is all the rage in NC).

Another perk of a trip to NC, the NASCAR Hall of Fame (half price entry with conference pass – bargain!)
Another perk of a trip to NC, the NASCAR Hall of Fame (half price entry with conference pass – bargain!)

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About Charly Stamper

I’m an ex-experimental petrologist.
I used to make pretend volcanoes; now I work in renewable energy

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