A perfect storm

Wow. What a few weeks it has been. On Tuesday this week I got the official letter from the VC to confirm what I’d been told informally earlier the previous week – that the University of Birmingham had decided to promote me from Senior Research Fellow to Professor of Palaeobiology (equivalent to full professor in the US system). This was a huge surprise, and it is a tremendous honour to have reached this point still relatively early in my career.

On Wednesday this week our paper on the oldest stem-bird and close dinosaur relative Teleocrater was published in Nature. Again, this was hugely exciting – only the second Nature paper of my career. I wrote an article on the new species for The Conversation, and did radio interviews with BBC Wales, BBC Scotland and the BBC World Service. The University recorded a short video about the discovery, and Palaeocast published a podcast interview recorded with me back at last year’s SVP.

Teleocrater final Witton 2017 lower res

Above: A stunning reconstruction of Teleocrater rhadinus in Middle Triassic Tanzania by the frankly brilliant palaeoartist Mark Witton. Copyright: Mark Witton/Natural History Museum.

Also on Wednesday, the Lapworth Museum’s first annual Keith Palmer Lecture took place, after several months of planning by Museum staff and the University’s Development and Alumni Relations Office. Following our recent redevelopment of the Lapworth, we committed to organise an annual public lecture for the local community, named in honour of our lead donor. For this first lecture, we were lucky enough to collaborate with the GeoLiteracy tour of PESGB, and bring Professor Ken Lacovara to the University of Birmingham School to talk about ‘Why Dinosaurs Matter’. The event was hosted by Professor Alice Roberts, and was a fantastic success, with well over 200 members of the public, of all ages, enjoying a brilliant talk.

As if that wasn’t enough excitement, last week we received the proofs for a forthcoming paper in Nature Communications led by Roger Close, as well as getting generally encouraging reviews back for another Nature Communications submission led by David Button. And if I look slightly further back, to the end of March, I had the great pleasure of joining my close friend Roger Benson of the University of Oxford and a number of colleagues (including Elsa Panciroli and Stig Walsh) from National Museums Scotland for fieldwork in the Middle Jurassic of Skye. We made a number of very significant discoveries of small vertebrates, and I was very excited to find my first ever Mesozoic mammal jaw. Also, it’s never bad working somewhere that looks like this.

IMG_2293

And there’s been one other mega exciting piece of news that has had us in a bit of a spin the last fortnight, one that I am itching to share. Unfortunately, it has to stay under wraps for a little while longer – I can’t even hint at what it is – but if you follow me on Twitter then all will be revealed in due course.

— Richard

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