I was born/grew up in: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
I now live in: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
I completed my training/education at: 4-year undergraduate program in Earth Sciences at Carleton University (Ottawa), 5-year PhD program in Biological Sciences at the University of Calgary.
Describe what you do at work.
Being a palaeontologist isn't as glamorous as it's portrayed in the movies. A lot of time is spent behind a desk, answering emails, filling our progress reports, applying for research grants, etc. But I do a lot of fun things in addition to this. I get to travel the world visiting different museums to study their fossil collections. I spend a month in the field every year collecting dinosaur bones in the badlands of Alberta. I also spend a lot of time doing public outreach, speaking to audiences and the media about my research and career.
When I was a student I enjoyed:
How does your job affect peoples lives?
Palaeontology is important because it provides us with a knowledge of how life responded to a changing planet in the past. This is important information if we hope to know anything about how life will respond to things like climate change in the future. Palaeontology is also often described as a 'gateway drug' to science. This is because so many people (especially kids) are interested in dinosaurs. Being able to hook people onto dinosaurs is a great first step in getting them to appreciate the benefits of science.
What motivates you in your career?
My favourite part about my job is getting to produce new knowledge about ancient ecosystems. What dinosaurs were around 75 million years ago? How did they live together? How did their ecosystems change through time? These are all questions that I'm passionate about and being able to find the answers by digging through the fossil record brings me great satisfaction.
When I was a student, I would have described myself as someone who:
Describe your career path to this career.
I decided I wanted to be a palaeontologist when I was 11 years old, after first seeing Jurassic Park in theaters. I never wavered from that goal, which is pretty rare for a developing youth. After high school, I enrolled in a palaeontology program at Carleton University in Ottawa. After graduation I pursued my PhD out west where I could be closer to the original fossils. My parents always encouraged me to pursue my dreams, and my teachers are likewise to thank for nurturing my interest in science and palaeontology.
What activities do you like to do outside of work?
Dinosaurs are my passion, so I spend a lot of my free time reading or writing about them. I also enjoy playing guitar, fishing, and learning about natural theology.
What advice or encouragement would you give others seeking a similar career?
Find your drive. Academia is a challenging and highly competitive place to work but knowing what motivates you will help you rise to the occasion.