People

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Dr Daniel J. Field

Position: PI, Assistant Professor of Earth Sciences, Strickland Curator of Ornithology

Hometown: Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Undergraduate: University of British Columbia: Zoology

MPhil & PhD: Yale University: Geology & Geophysics

Predoctoral Fellowship: Smithsonian NMNH, Division of Birds

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Daniel is an assistant professor of evolutionary palaeobiology at the University of Cambridge (Department of Earth Sciences), and the Strickland Curator of Ornithology at the University of Cambridge Museum of Zoology. He is also a research associate in palaeontology at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and the Natural History Museum (London), and a fellow of Christ's College Cambridge, where Charles Darwin spent his undergraduate years. Since 2019 he has held a UK Research and Innovation Future Leaders Fellowship.

 

Daniel uses the vertebrate fossil record to help answer questions about how, where, and when Earth’s modern biodiversity arose. He is passionate about natural history, evolution, and science outreach, and enjoys photographing Earth’s vertebrate biodiversity in the field.

We are an international research group with interests ranging from palaeontology to phylogenetics to EMBRYOLOGY. we are united by a passion for understanding the origins of the present-day diversity of vertebrate animals, especially birds.

postdoctoral researchers

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Dr Junya Watanabe

jw2098[at]cam.ac.uk

 

Position: Newton International Fellow, 2019-2021

Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Fellow, 2022-23

Hometown: Echizen, Fukui, Japan

Undergraduate, Master’s and PhD: Kyoto University: Science

Favourite Activities: Cycling, travelling

Junya’s research interests regard the influence of developmental factors on the evolution and

diversification of organisms. He aims to provide a framework for testing whether biases in microevolutionary variability have influenced macroevolutionary diversification patterns. As a case study, he plans to study a variety of marine birds and apply a combination of anatomical, morphometric, and comparative methods.

Dr Guillermo Navalon

gn315[at]cam.ac.uk

 

Position: UKRI Postdoctoral Research Associate, 2021-2023

Hometown: Madrid, Spain

Undergraduate: Autonomous University of Madrid (BSc Biology)

Master's and PhD: University of Bristol (MSc and PhD)

Favourite Activities: Birdwatching, scuba diving, drawing, outdoor sports

Guillermo is interested in how evolution structures phenotypic diversity over large timescales.

In particular, he studies how intrinsic factors such as development interact with ecological factors

in macroevolution, focusing on the study of birds and their skeletal anatomy. To accomplish this, he works at several scales from macroevolutionary studies of phenotype across dozens of species to anatomical systematic research on fossils, mostly birds.

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Albert “Chendytes” Chen

ac2318[at]cam.ac.uk

Position: PhD Student, 2017-22

Junior Research Fellow, 2022-25

Hometown: Cleveland, Ohio, USA

Undergraduate: University of Maryland: College Park, Geology

Master’s: University of Bristol: Palaeobiology

Favourite Activities: Reading, cartooning, birding, science communication

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Albert’s primary interests lie in the function, ecology, and evolution of vertebrate animals (especially maniraptoran dinosaurs). He pursues palaeontology due to its ability to shed light on the origins of modern organisms and environments. For his PhD, he studies the anatomy and systematics of a variety of fossil birds and their close relatives.

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Juan “The Guan” Benito

jb2284[at]cam.ac.uk

Position: PhD Student, 2017-22

Postdoctoral Research Associate, 2022-23

Hometown: Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain

Undergraduate: Universitat de Barcelona: Biology

Master’s: Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona: Palaeontology

Favourite Activities: Craft beer, weird music, craft beer, craft beer

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Juan is interested in evolution, phylogeny, and morphological disparity. For his PhD, Juan has been examining the postcranial morphology of crownward Mesozoic birds using high resolution three-dimensional data. His previous research focussed on often overlooked small vertebrates, including lepidosaurs and procolophonids.

graduate students

Lizzy Steell

ems207[at]cam.ac.uk

Position: PhD Student (NERC C-CLEAR DTP), 2019-

Hometown: Olney, Buckinghamshire, UK

Undergraduate: University College London: Zoology

Master’s: University College London: Zoology

Favourite Activities: Travel, running, birding, reading

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Lizzy combines insights from zoology and palaeontology by working on extinct and living taxa. She is interested in the evolutionary history of hyper-diverse vertebrate groups, especially when and how they evolved their specialised characteristics. Lizzy’s PhD applies comparative morphology and phylogenetics to study the evolution of the most diverse order of birds, the passerines.

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Pei-Chen Kuo

pck30[at]cam.ac.uk

Position: Cambridge-Taiwan Scholarship PhD student, 2020-

Hometown: Taipei, Taiwan

Undergraduate: National Taiwan Uni.: Geosciences & Anthropology

Master’s: University Edinburgh: Palaeontology & Geobiology (MScR)

Favourite Activities: Watching movies, badminton, travelling

Pei-Chen is interested in the evolution of specialised anatomical adaptations. For his PhD, he is

investigating the evolution of morphology in the avian feeding apparatus, employing sophisticated geometric analyses to incorporate living and fossil birds into a single evolutionary framework.

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Klara "The Kea" Widrig

kew66[at]cam.ac.uk

Position: MPhil student, 2019-20

Cambridge Gates Scholarship PhD student, 2020-

Hometown: Lyon Mountain, New York, USA

Undergraduate: McGill University: Biology

Master’s: Cambridge: Earth Sciences

Favourite Activities: Running, hiking, illustration, calligraphy, visiting museums,

showing off pictures of her cat, archery

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Klara is interested in major evolutionary transitions in vertebrates, particularly the evolution of flight. She is investigating the evolution of the major avian clade Palaeognathae (ratites and kin) from the perspective of the fossil record.

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Armin Schmitt

as3008[at]cam.ac.uk

Position: Cambridge Trust PhD student, 2020-

Hometown: Friedrichshafen, Germany

Undergraduate: University of Mainz: Geology & Palaeontology

Master’s: University of Bonn, Geology & Palaeontology (Diplom)

Favourite Activities: Cooking, painting, travelling, cinema

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Armin is interested in genome size evolution throughout the evolutionary history of birds. He is interested in the application of high-resolution synchrotron microtomography data to palaeontology, and its potential to reveal internal bone structures which may relate to physiology. In his master’s thesis he applied 3D modelling software to segment cranial endosseous structures in sauropodomorph dinosaurs to infer habitual head and neck posture from the size and shape of the labyrinths (inner ear) of these long-necked sauropods, whose unique body plan has no analogy in today’s animal kingdom.  

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Oliver Demuth 

oed24[at]cam.ac.uk

Position: PhD Student, 2020- 

Hometown: Zürich, Switzerland 

Undergraduate: Zurich Uni of the Arts: Design, Scientific Visualization 

Master’s: University of Bristol, Palaeobiology 

Favourite Activities: Drawing, painting, travelling, hiking, fieldwork

TwitterOliver’s personal website
 

Oliver is interested in functional morphology and how it relates to the locomotion of living and extinct reptiles (including birds). His previous work focused on three-dimensional computational modelling techniques to investigate the postural evolution of archosaurs as well as locomotory biomechanics of extinct and extant reptiles and myological reconstructions of extinct taxa. Oliver is also a scientific illustrator and has published illustrations in research articles and the international media. With his illustrations and 3D models he has also participated in several exhibitions in Europe and North America.

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Grace Burton 

mgpb3[at]cam.ac.uk

Position: MPhil Student, 2021-22

Harding Distinguished Postgraduate Scholarship PhD student, 2022- 

Hometown: Streatham, London

Undergraduate: Imperial College London, Biological Sciences 

Favourite Activities: Piano, jigsaw puzzling, visiting museums
 

Grace is interested in vertebrate phylogeny and key evolutionary transitions. She is working on understanding the internal architecture of the bird skeleton, and is especially interested in deriving new anatomical insights from 3D modelling techniques. Her previous research has focused on the evolution of early jawed vertebrates, including placoderms.

Katrina van Grouw

kv340[at]cam.ac.uk

Position: PhD student, 2021- 

Hometown: Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire

Undergraduate: University of Plymouth

Master's: Royal College of Art

Favourite Activities: Writing; keeping birds; a million things to do with bird skeletons,

museums, and specimen preparation; walking on the downs with her dog; visiting pubs.

Katrina has a longstanding involvement with birds and comparative anatomy, and has written and

illustrated several outstanding books on these topics. For her PhD Katrina is interested in the mysterious extinct seabird clade Pelagornithidae, the bony-toothed birds, and hopes to shed new light on their ecology and evolutionary history.

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Abi Crane

ac2219[at]cam.ac.uk

Position: MPhil Student, 2021-22 

Hometown: Ipswich, Suffolk

Undergraduate: University of Cambridge, Zoology

Favourite Activities: Scuba diving, moth trapping, creative writing, going to the zoo

Abi is interested in vertebrate evolution and diversity, with a particular focus on the early evolution

of modern bird groups and their close relatives. Her MPhil research is investigating the morphology

of the mandible of early-diverging bird groups with an emphasis on phylogenetic implications for the ‘wonderchicken’, Asteriornis maastrichtensis. She has previous experience researching the fossil record of fossorial vertebrates, mammal phylogenetics and UK moth biodiversity trends.

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Bassel Arnaout

ba419[at]cam.ac.uk

Position: PhD Student, 2021- 

Hometown: Damascus, Syria

Undergraduate: Brock University

Master's: Carleton University

Favourite Activities: Thinking about evolutionary theory, birding, playing the piano,

cycling, waltzing, reading.

Bassel is passionate about phenotypic evolution both at the micro and macro levels, and considers bird skulls to be a perfect bridge between these scales. To understand phenotypic evolution, he learns from embryonic development—the biological process that assembles phenotypes, and one that can resemble the evolutionary process. He is currently using his backgrounds in embryology (evo-devo), zoology, and palaeontology to understand the evolution of the skull in Galloanserae.

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Undergraduate students

Sophie Truepenny

Position: Zoology Part II project Student, 2021-22 

Emily Smith

Position: Zoology Part II project Student, 2021-22 

Natalie Rose

Position: Zoology Part II project Student, 2021-22 

Alex Davies

Position: Zoology Part II project Student, 2021-22 

Joel Gayford

Position: Zoology Part II project Student, 2021-22 

Louis Fisher

Position: Zoology Part II project Student, 2021-22 

former Lab members

Dr Neil Brocklehurst

Position: UKRI Postdoctoral Research Associate, 2021-2022

Hometown: Faringdon, Oxfordshire

PhD: Humboldt University, Berlin (Palaeontology)

Neil's Research: Neil investigated major patterns early in bird evolutionary history, investigating support for alternative phylogenetic arrangements of deep neornithine lineages and support for alternative temporal scenarios of bird diversification.

Simon Ducatez

Position: UKRI Postdoctoral Research Associate, 2020-2022

Hometown: Lille, France

PhD: Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris

Simon's Research: Simon investigated the evolution of life history strategies during his postdoc, and has now begun a faculty position in Tahiti(!) at the University of French Polynesia.

 

Matthieu Chotard

Position: Visiting Research Master’s Student, 2021

Hometown: Toulouse, France

Undergraduate: Uni. Paul Sabatier de Toulouse, Biology & Ecology

Matthieu's Research: Matthieu joined our lab for six months, studying the evolution of avian tarsus morphology while on exchange from Université de Rennes 1.

Garance Robin

Position: Visiting Research Master’s Student, 2020

Hometown: Toulouse, Occitanie, France

Undergraduate: Uni. Paul Sabatier de Toulouse, Biology & Ecology

Garance’s Research: Garance joined our lab for six months, studying the evolution of bird body size while on exchange from Université de Rennes 1.

 

Kit Baker

Position: MESc student, 2019-2020

Hometown: Stonegate, East Sussex, England

Undergraduate: University of Cambridge, Earth Sciences

Kit’s Research: Kit studied the morphology of Cretaceous avialans using high resolution three-dimensional visualisation techniques.

 

Dr Jake Berv

Position: Visiting NSF Graduate Fellow, Cornell University, 2018

Undergraduate: Yale University, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Ph.D: Cornell University, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (2019)

Jake's Research: Jake and Daniel continue to collaborate on a number of projects related to exploring the interface between micro and macroevolution, and avian palaeontology. Jake is currently a Michigan Fellow at the University of Michigan.

 

Dania Kewbank

Position: Undergraduate Final-year Student, 2018

Dania’s Research: Dania studied the pelvic morphology of bird-like dinosaurs using high-resolution visualisation techniques.

 

Jake Callaghan

Position: Undergraduate Final-year Student, 2017

Jake’s Research: Jake dove into the world of Bayesian phylogenetics to investigate the higher-order interrelationships of living birds and their survival patterns across the K-Pg boundary.

 

Georgina Halford

Position: Undergraduate Final-year Student, 2017

Georgina’s Research: Georgina examined the evolution of the avian hindlimb by working with high-resolution three-dimensional scans of Mesozoic avialan legs.

 

Jono Gooch

Position: Undergraduate Final-year Student, 2017

Jono’s Research: Jono studied the anatomy of early amniotes to gain a clearer understanding of how vertebrates originally became specialised for life on dry land.

 

Joe Hardy

Position: Undergraduate Final-year Student, 2017

Joe’s Research: Joe’s work was focused on the anatomy of the wings of Mesozoic Avialae.

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