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Honorary Professor of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol

I am a biologically trained paleontologist (i.e., I study bones rather than rocks), originally from the UK, in the US for the past 30 years (as a professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Brown University, now back in the UK for the past 6 years (as an honorary professor of Earth Sciences at the University of Bristol). I have always been fascinated by animals (especially mammals), and bones are so informative about their behavior and ecology. It's exciting to figure out how to understand what bones can tell us about extinct animals (and also fun to convey to students how they can interpret the message of the bones).

My main focus of research has been on ungulates (hoofed mammals) --- as you can see from the photograph they also figure heavily in my non-academic life! Most of my research has focused on North American mammals, not just on their functional anatomy and paleobiology, but also (together with my colleague John Damuth from the University of California Santa Barbara) how change in mammalian communities over time reflects (or can predict) changes in climate and environment.

I also became fascinated with marsupials while visiting the Estonian branch of my family in Australia: together with my colleague Borja Figueirido [from the University of Malaga in Spain) I've published papers about the probable predatory behaviour of the thylacine and the 'marsupial lion', Thylacoleo, and about the locomotion of the extinct giant short-faced kangaroos (sthenurines), how they walked rather than hopped (a notion now backed up by fossil trackways). Other recent papers have been about the reason why present-day horses have only one toe, and how the "saber-toothed marsupial" Thylacosmilus was probably a specialized scavenger rather than a predator). I'm currently working with masters students at the University of Bristol on further studies on the evolution of kangaroo locomotion.


  • 1983–present
    Professor of Biology, Brown University


  • 1979 
    Harvard University, PhD
  • 1973 
    University of Cambridge, BA (Natural Sciences, Zoology)


Fellow of the Paleontological Society, Honorary Member of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology