Postdoctoral fellow in vertebrate palaeontology, Flinders University

My research focuses on fossil fishes from the Silurian-Devonian in order to discover the origins of the modern vertebrate body plan.

I completed my PhD at ANU/Museum Victoria in late 2010 and immediately commenced a full time postdoctoral research position at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (Chinese Academy of Sciences), Beijing, China.

I was given full access to the world famous fossil collections of the institute and co-authored a series of high-impact papers on early gnathostome evolution and Triassic marine faunas, involving collaborating with researchers at the institute as well as Kean University, New Jersey (Xiaobo Yu) and Uppsala Universitet in Sweden (Per Ahlberg, Qu Qingming).

Notable discoveries include the so called "fish with the oldest face" Entelognathus which was featured in Nature, the first evidence of dermal pelvic girdles ancient in bony fishes and the first clear evidence of pelvic fins in antiarchs, the most primitive gnathostomes to possess homologues of our own legs.

This latter project was considered of sufficient import to be prominently featured by Sir David Attenborough in the 2013 BBC documentary "Rise of Animals: The Triumph of the Vertebrates" in which I was credited as an advisor having provided the original "character sketches" for the animated fish reconstructions while providing corrections to the early drafts.

In March 2014, I commenced a full time postdoctoral research position at Flinders University, notable publication highlights for 2014 include the description of Megamastax, the earliest vertebrate apex predator (in Scientific Reports), fresh data on Devonian actinopterygians from Germany and Western Australia (in press in Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology) and the earliest evidence for penetrative copulation in vertebrates.

At present I am concluding several holdover projects from my time in Beijing and conducting preliminary research on undescribed Devonian fishes from Western Australia, New South Wales and the Northern Territory.

Experience

  • –present
    Postdoctoral fellow in vertebrate palaeontology , Flinders University

Education

  • 2010 
    Australian National University, PhD