I am a vertebrate palaeontologist based at the University of Birmingham. I lead a large team of researchers addressing questions relating to the systematics, evolution, diversity and biogeography of fossil tetrapods. I am particularly interested in the origin and early evolution of dinosaurs and their close relatives in the aftermath of the Permo-Triassic mass extinction, as well as long-term patterns of diversity on land. My research has been recognised by major early-career grants from the German Research Foundation and the European Research Council, and by the Hodson Award of the Palaeontological Association and the Joseph Chamberlain Award for Academic Advancement from the University of Birmingham. I was promoted to full Professor (personal chair) by Birmingham in 2017, and from September 2020 will be Director of Global Engagement for the College of Life & Environmental Sciences. I am also currently the lead for Birmingham's Earth System & Environmental Science submission to REF2021.
In Birmingham, my team forms part of the Palaeobiology research theme, one of the largest and most active clusters of deep time researchers anywhere in the UK. We are closely linked to the award-winning Lapworth Museum of Geology.
I have been awarded >€3 million in research funding. Our research is currently funded by the European Research Council, Leverhulme Trust, NERC, Marie Curie Actions and the Royal Society. I have previously received funding from National Geographic, the German Research Foundation, the Palaeontological Association, the Rutherford Fund and the Humboldt Foundation, among others.
I grew up on a farm in the Welsh Marches. I completed my undergraduate degree in Geology at the University of Bristol, before moving to the University of Cambridge to complete my PhD on early dinosaur evolution. I then spent three years as a postdoctoral research assistant at the Natural History Museum in London, working on dinosaur-plant co-evolution and dinosaur respiration. This was followed by four years working at the University of Munich and the BSPG in southern Germany, funded first by a Humboldt Fellowship, and then by a Emmy Noether Programme award from the German Research Foundation. In 2013 I returned to the UK to take up a permanent position at the University of Birmingham.
I am an active field palaeontologist, with experience in the UK, USA, India, South Africa, Poland, Portugal and Lithuania. Current research fieldwork is focused on South Africa and the Isle of Skye in Scotland, and field teaching in Northern Ireland, Scotland, North Wales, southern England and the western USA.
Much of my research is specimen-based, and I have worked closely with museums throughout my career. From 2013–2018 I was the Academic Keeper of the Lapworth Museum of Geology, and helped lead the Museum through an award-winning £2.6 million redevelopment and expansion which has transformed this historic institution and hugely expanded its audience. I collaborated on successful major funding bids to HLF, Research England, and Arts Council England, among others. More recently, I co-curated the exhibition Drawing Out The Dinosaurs, which explored two centuries of scientific discovery and artistic inspiration. Following an installation at the Lapworth, this exhibition is currently on tour.
Collecting therapsid fossils in the Middle Triassic of Eastern Cape, South Africa, 2017.
Receiving the Joseph Chamberlain Award for Academic Achievement from the University of Birmingham, 2019.
Visiting the Paleontological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, 2013.
Lower jaw of a temnospondyl amphibian, Lower Triassic of West Bengal, India, 2015.
In the newly redeveloped Lapworth Museum of Geology, 2016.