Research Associate, African Centre for Coastal Palaeoscience, Nelson Mandela University

Charles Helm was born in Cape Town, South Africa in1957. He graduated with M.B.Ch.B. at the University of Cape Town in 1981. He moved to Canada in 1986, settled in Tumbler Ridge in northeastern British Columbia in 1992, has practiced there since then as a family physician, is the Chief of Medical Staff, is on the teaching faculty of the University of British Columbia, and is a Fellow of the College of Family Physicians of Canada.

Following the discovery of Cretaceous dinosaur trackways near Tumbler Ridge by his eight-year-old son and a friend in 2000, he was a founding member of the Tumbler Ridge Museum Foundation in 2002, and through this organization he helped establish the Peace Region Palaeontology Research Centre, which specializes in ichnology. He has served on the museum Board of Directors as President, Vice President and Secretary. He has been trained by the palaeontologists that he helped recruit to the region, and has made numerous Cretaceous dinosaur trackway discoveries and Triassic fish and marine reptile discoveries. He led the drive for the successful designation of the Tumbler Ridge UNESCO Global Geopark, and was the Founder-President of this organization. He is the author of nine books, one of which is a book on dinosaurs for children

He has applied the palaeontological knowledge he acquired in Canada to his native South Africa since 2007, documenting the wealth of fossil trackways he has discovered along a 350 km stretch of coastline, and has led research publications on these findings. Perhaps the most important discovery was of the largest and best preserved archive of Late Pleistocene hominin tracks yet reported.

This work in southern Africa led to him accepting a Research Associate position with the African Centre for Coastal Palaeoscience at Nelson Mandela University, South Africa. He has helped to pioneer the emerging discipline of geomythology in southern Africa. He has given numerous talks on palaeontology, ichnology and geomythology to audiences in Canada and South Africa.

Peer reviewed earth science research articles:

As lead author:

Helm, C.W., Anderson, R.J., Buckley, L.G., Cawthra, H.C., De Vynck, J.C. 2017. Biofilm enables identification of avian trackways in Late Pleistocene coastal aeolianites, South Africa. Palaeontologia Africana, 52:78–84.

Helm, C.W., Cawthra, H.C., Cowling, R.M., De Vynck, J.C., Marean, C.W., McCrea, R.T., Rust, R. 2018. Palaeoecology of giraffe tracks in Late Pleistocene aeolianites on the Cape south coast. South African Journal of Science, 114(1/2), 8 pages, Article number: 2017-0266. Online at: http://dx.doi.org/10.17159/sajs.2018/20170266

Helm, C.W., McCrea, R.T., Cawthra, H.C., Thesen, G.H.H., Mwankunda, J.M. 2018. Late Pleistocene trace fossils in the Goukamma Nature Reserve, Cape south coast, South Africa. Palaeontologia africana, 52, 89–101.

Helm, C.W., McCrea, R.T., Cawthra, H.C., Cowling, R.M., Lockley, M.G., Marean, C.W., Thesen, G.H.H., Pigeon, T., Hattingh, S. 2018. A new Pleistocene hominin tracksite from the Cape south coast, South Africa. Scientific Reports. Online at: www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-22059-5 (accessed 01 March 2018).
DOI: 10.1038/s41598-018-22059-5

Helm, C.W., Benoit, J., Mayor, A., Cawthra, H.C., Penn-Clarke, C.R., Rust. R. 2019. Interest in geological and palaeontological curiosities by southern African non-western societies: A review and perspectives for future study. Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pgeola.2019.01.001

Three further peer-reviewed articles have been accepted and are due for publication in 2019:

Helm, C.W., Lockley, M.G., Cole, K., Noakes, T.D., McCrea, R.T. Hominin tracks in southern Africa: A review and an approach to identification. Palaeontologia africana

Helm, C.W., Cawthra, H.C., De Vynck, J.C., Lockley, M.G., Mccrea, R.T., Venter, J. The Pleistocene fauna of the Cape south coast revealed through ichnology at two localities. South African Journal of Science.

Helm. C.W., Klenke, P. On the Measurement of the Earth – New Approaches to our Planet’s Distinctive Shape. Cartographica.

As co-author:

McCrea, R.T., Buckley, L.G., Currie, P.J., Plint, A.G., Helm, C.W., Haggart, J.W. 2013. A review of vertebrate track-bearing formations from the Mesozoic and earliest Cenozoic of western Canada with a description of a new theropod ichnospecies and reassignment of an avian ichnogenus. In Lockley, M.G. and S. Lucas (eds.), Tracking dinosaurs and other tetrapods in western North America. New Mexico Museum of Natural History Bulletin.

McCrea, R.T., Tanke, D.H., Buckley, L.G., Lockley, M.G., Farlow, J.O., Xing, L., Matthews, N.A., Helm, C.W., Pemberton, G., Breithaupt, B.H. 2015 Vertebrate Ichnopathology: Pathologies Inferred from Dinosaur Tracks and Trackways from the Mesozoic. Ichnos, 22:3-4, 235-260.

In addition he has authored 36 peer-reviewed publications in Canadian Journal of Rural Medicine (available on request).

Awards

Awards that are related directly or indirectly to palaeontology include:
- Rene Savenye Award (2011) from the British Columbia Paleontological Alliance, in recognition of contributions to British Columbia palaeontology
- In 2013 a newly described genus of fossil marine reptile, Gulosaurus, was assigned the species name helmi in recognition of his contributions to the discovery and study of Triassic fish and reptile fossils.
- Honorary Degree in Arts, Northern Lights College, British Columbia (2015)
- Best Speaker Award, 2nd International Conference on Continental Ichnology, Nuy, South Africa (2017).

He has also received awards for postgraduate teaching from the University of British Columbia Department of Family Practice, the Walter Smith Visionary Award in recognition of contribution to tourism innovation in northern British Columbia, the Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award (2016), the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal (2002), the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal (2012), and the Rural Family Physician of the Year Award (2016) from the British Columbia College of Family Physicians.

Experience

  • –present
    Research Associate, African Centre for Coastal Palaeoscience, Nelson Mandela University