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People

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Outside the University of Cambridge Museum of Zoology in June 2023.

Back (from left):

Kirsty Mellor, Rachel Barham, Lizzy Steell, Oliver Demuth, José Antonio Palma Liberona, Pei-Chen Kuo, Charles Wolrige-Gordon, Bassel Arnaout

Middle (from left):

Grace Burton, Sophie Truepenny, Grace Kinney-Broderick, Georgina Scott, Astrid Xu, Annabel Hunt, Charlotte McConnell

Front (from left):

Albert Chen, Junya Watanabe, Guillermo Navalón, Daniel Field, Carla du Toit, Juan Benito, Olivia Plateau, Klara Widrig

our lab has representatives from around the world, with evolutionary interests ranging from morphology to phylogenetics to EMBRYOLOGY. we are united by a passion for understanding the evolutionary origins of the present-day diversity of vertebrate animals, especially birds.

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Prof. Daniel J. Field

djf70[at]cam.ac.uk

Positions: Professor of Vertebrate Palaeontology & Strickland Curator of Ornithology

Hometown: Calgary, Alberta, 🇨🇦

Undergraduate: University of British Columbia: Zoology

MPhil & PhD: Yale University: Geology & Geophysics

CVGoogle ScholarResearchGateTwitter

 

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

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

postdoctoral researchers

Dr Olivia Plateau

ojcp2[at]cam.ac.uk

Position: Swiss Mobility Postdoc, 2023-2025

Hometown: Paris, 🇫🇷 

Undergraduate: Sorbonne University (Pierre and Marie Curie Campus): Biology

Master’s: Sorbonne: Systematics, Evolution and Paleontology & Paris Cité University:

Interdisciplinary Approaches in Life Sciences

PhD: University of Fribourg, Switzerland

Favourite Activities: Travelling, Running, Winter walks in the mountains

ResearchGate

Olivia is primarily interested in bird evolution and ontogeny, focusing on the study of avian skulls. Her main focus corresponds to the comparison of cranial bone morphology, organization and fusion between juveniles and adults of extant birds. To get better insight in the interaction between ontogeny and major evolutionary changes, she also compares extant birds with their extinct relatives.

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Dr Carla du Toit

cjd92[at]cam.ac.uk

Position: Newton International Fellow, 2023-2025

Hometown: Cape Town, 🇿🇦 

Undergraduate: University of Cape Town

PhD: FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, Cape Town

Favourite Activities: Birding, walking her dog, wine tasting, travelling, writing

Carla is interested in the sensory ecology of birds, particularly their sense of touch using their beaks, and how we can combine methodological approaches to determine how extant birds perceive the world around them and find food. Furthermore, she uses comparative methods to examine the morphology of the beaks of extinct birds from fossils to answer questions about their palaeoecology and the evolutionary trends of some of the earliest known crown birds. Her research will focus primarily on seabirds, waterfowl and waders, both extant and extinct.

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Dr Guillermo Navalón

gn315[at]cam.ac.uk

 

Position: UKRI Postdoctoral Research Associate, 2021-2023

Hometown: Madrid, 🇪🇸 

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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Dr Albert “Chendytes” Chen

ac2318[at]cam.ac.uk

Position: PhD Student, 2017-22

Junior Research Fellow, 2022-25

Hometown: Cleveland, Ohio, 🇺🇸 

Undergraduate: University of Maryland: College Park, Geology

Master’s: University of Bristol: Palaeobiology

Favourite Activities: Reading, cartooning, birding, science communication

Twitter

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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Dr Juan “The Guan” Benito

jb2284[at]cam.ac.uk

Position: PhD Student, 2017-22

Postdoctoral Research Associate, 2022-23

Hometown: Barcelona, Catalonia, 🇪🇸 

Undergraduate: Universitat de Barcelona: Biology

Master’s: Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona: Palaeontology

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

Twitter

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.

Dr Andrzej Wolniewicz

andrzej.s.wolniewicz[at]gmail.com

Position: NAWA Bekker Fellow, 2023-2025

Hometown: Gostyn, 🇵🇱

Undergraduate and PhD: University of Oxford
Favourite activities: Travelling, music, reading, swimming
Twitter
 


Andrzej is a vertebrate palaeontologist who studies the origins and early evolution of reptiles, with a particular focus on understanding how the major groups of extant and extinct reptiles are related to one another. He is also interested in the evolutionary transition from a terrestrial to an aquatic lifestyle that several groups of reptiles, such as ichthyosaurs and sauropterygians, underwent in the Mesozoic. Andrzej’s research involves fieldwork, comparative anatomy, CT-scanning and phylogenetic reconstruction.

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Dr Fabio Alfieri

fabio_alfieri[at]yahoo.it

Position: SNSF Swiss Postdoctoral Fellow, 2023-2025.

Hometown: Firenze, 🇮🇹

Undergraduate and master's: University of Pisa (Italy), Natural and Environmental Sciences 

Master's: University of Pisa (Italy), Conservation and Evolution

PhD: Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (Germany), Zoology

Favourite activities: Travelling, watching movies, reading, listening to music, watching football
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Fabio focuses on the evolution of bone morphology in tetrapods, addressing extant and extinct taxa. He is experienced in collections-based research: i.e. digitisation of museum specimens, analysis of virtual data (especially inner bone structure) and phylogenetic comparative methods in R. Following his experience studying mammals (PhD), with a special focus on primates (Master’s and side projects), Fabio will reconstruct the evolutionary drivers of the inner structure of extant bird wing bones, applying his findings to infer the palaeobiology of extinct taxa, e.g. terror-birds.

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graduate students

Thomas MacGillavry

thomas.gillavry[at]vetmeduni.ac.at

Position: Visiting PhD candidate from University of Vienna, 2024

Hometown: Antwerp, Belgium 🇧🇪

Undergraduate: University of Glasgow, Zoology 

Master’s: University of Glasgow/Max Planck Institute of Ornithology (Munich)

Favourite Activities: Drums, Capoeira, birding, photography, tea ceremony, reading 

Thomas is primarily interested in the evolution of animal signals, specifically avian courtship display behaviours. For his PhD, he is studying the display behaviour of Victoria’s riflebird in Far North Queensland (Australia) and is visiting the Field lab to work on phylogenetic comparative projects in the broader bird of paradise family. Thomas is also broadly interested in animal cognition and comparative approaches to studying human music and dance.  

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Grace Burton 

mgpb3[at]cam.ac.uk

Position: Harding Distinguished Postgraduate Scholarship PhD student, 2022- 

MPhil Student, 2021-22

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.

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Klara "The Kea" Widrig

kew66[at]cam.ac.uk

Position: Cambridge Gates Scholarship PhD student, 2020-

MPhil student, 2019-20

Hometown: Lyon Mountain, New York, 🇺🇸 

Undergraduate: McGill University: Biology

Master’s: Cambridge: Earth Sciences

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

showing off pictures of her cat, archery

Twitter

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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Bassel Arnaout

ba419[at]cam.ac.uk

Position: PhD Student, 2021- 

Hometown: Damascus, 🇸🇾 

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. Bassel is co-supervised by Dr Ben Steventon (Department of Genetics).

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Annabel Hunt

akh56[at]cam.ac.uk

Position: PhD Student, 2022- 

Hometown: Devon, UK, 🇬🇧 

Undergraduate: University of Oxford, Earth Sciences (MEarthSci)

Favourite Activities: Assisting with dinosaur digs, preparing fossils, hiking, swimming, kayaking 

 

Annabel is passionate about using micro-computed tomography to reveal novel anatomical features of fossil vertebrates and to use these observations to study morphological evolution and phylogenetic relationships. She is using her prior knowledge of the early reptilian skull, and experience segmenting bone from CT scans, to investigate the anatomy and evolution of specific aspects of the dinosaurian skull (including modern birds). Annabel is co-supervised by Prof. Steve Brusatte (University of Edinburgh).

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Grace Kinney-Broderick

gracekbroderick8[at]gmail.com

Position: PhD student, 2023-

Hometown: Chicago, Illinois, 🇺🇸 

Undergraduate: Boston College: Environmental Geoscience

Master’s: University of Bristol: Palaeobiology 

Favourite Activities: Wildlife photography, spending time with her dog Truffle, working out,

Kpop, and dancing

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Grace is passionate about both paleontology and ornithology thus culminating in a PhD focusing on the Cretaceous Pygostylian: Confuciusornis. She will be updating and adding to the previous description of this basal bird with a special focus on their hindlimb morphology. Using CT scan data and geometric morphometrics she will compare the pedal anatomy with that of extant species. 

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Christian Voiculescu-Holvad

cv391[at]cam.ac.uk

Position: MPhil student, 2023-24 

Hometown: Oxford, 🇬🇧 

Undergraduate: University College London

Favourite Activities: Fossil collecting, playing piano, watching horror films, hiking

Christian is interested in the palaeoecology and biogeography of nektonic predatory fauna from latest-Cretaceous European chalk deposits. He is affiliated as curator with the GeoCenter Møns Klint museum (Denmark). His previous research focused on the transatlantic distribution of long-snouted gavialoid crocodylians. For his MPhil, he is investigating the Danish White Chalk mosasaur assemblage, co-supervised by Prof. Alexandra Turchyn (Department of Earth Sciences).

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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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Georgina Scott

gms57[at]cam.ac.uk

 

Position: MPhil student, 2023-24

Hometown: Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, 🇬🇧

Undergraduate: University of Cambridge, Natural Sciences (Zoology)

Favourite activities: Reading, baking, crochet, playing board games

 

Georgina is interested in phylogenetics and the use of fossils to understand palaeoecology and evolutionary transitions. She is using CT scan data to study the skeleton of early Anseriformes.

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Armin Schmitt

as3008[at]cam.ac.uk

Position: Cambridge Trust PhD student, 2020-

Hometown: Friedrichshafen, 🇩🇪  

Undergraduate: University of Mainz: Geology & Palaeontology

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

Favourite Activities: Cooking, painting, travelling, cinema

Twitter

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.  

Undergraduate students

Wayne Liang

Position: Zoology Part II project Student, 2023-24

Cian Williams

Position: Zoology Part II project Student, 2023-24

Anyaise Green

Position: Zoology Part II project Student, 2023-24

Annie Worth

Position: Zoology Part II project Student, 2023-24

Pip Young

Position: Zoology Part II project Student, 2023-24

Stanley Somogyi

Position: Zoology Part II project Student, 2023-24

Jasper Lee

Position: Zoology Part II project Student, 2023-24

Alex Adderley

Position: Zoology Part II project Student, 2023-24

Liam Brady

Position: Earth Sciences Part III project Student, 2023-24

Lab Alumni

Postdocs

Dr Junya Watanabe

Positions: Newton International Fellow, 2019-2021

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

Junya's Research: Junya’s research investigated 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.

Dr Neil Brocklehurst

Position: UKRI Postdoctoral Research Associate, 2021-2022

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. 

Dr Simon Ducatez

Position: UKRI Postdoctoral Research Associate, 2020-2022

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.

PhD students

Dr Oliver Demuth 

Position: PhD Student, 2020-23

Oliver's Research: Oliver is interested in functional morphology and how it relates to the locomotion of living and extinct reptiles (including birds). For his PhD he developed several new quantitative approaches to incorporate three-dimensionally preserved fossils into computational biomechanical analyses, with a focus on reconstructing the evolution of modern flapping bird flight. Oliver is returning to our lab as Junior Research Fellow at Clare College.

Dr Pei-Chen Kuo

Position: Cambridge-Taiwan Scholarship PhD student, 2020-23

Pei-Chen's Research: For his PhD, Pei-Chen investigated the evolution of morphology in the avian feeding apparatus, employing sophisticated geometric analyses to incorporate living and fossil birds into a single evolutionary framework. Pei-Chen moved on to a Meeker Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Field Museum in Chicago.

Dr Lizzy Steell

Position: PhD Student (NERC C-CLEAR DTP), 2019-23

Lizzy's Research: Lizzy's PhD addressed comparative morphology and phylogenetics of most diverse order of birds, the passerines. Lizzy is returning to our lab as Junior Research Fellow at Girton College.

José Antonio Palma Liberona

Position: Visiting PhD student, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, 2023

José's Research: José focused on how embryonic mechanical stimulation can drive shape skeletal morphology. 

Dr Jake Berv

Position: Visiting NSF Graduate Fellow, Cornell University, 2018

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.

Dr Juan Benito

Position: PhD Student, 2017-22

Juan's Research: Juan's PhD research investigated the evolution of skeletal morphology in crownward stem birds, with a particular focus on the Mesozoic clade Ichthyornithes. Juan returned to our lab for postdocs including a Junior Research Fellowship at Lucy Cavendish College.

Dr Albert Chen

Position: PhD Student, 2017-22

Albert's Research: Albert’s PhD research focused on phylogenetically problems in early crown bird evolution, with a focus on Strisores and Neoaves. Albert returned to our lab for a postdoc (a Junior Research Fellowship at Jesus College).

Mphil students

Abi Crane

Position: MPhil Student, 2021-22 

Abi's Research: ​Abi investigated the morphology of the mandible of early-diverging bird groups with an emphasis on phylogenetic implications for the ‘wonderchicken’, Asteriornis maastrichtensis. She has moved onto a PhD at the University of Southampton.

Matthieu Chotard

Position: Visiting Research Master’s Student, 2021

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

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.

Grace Burton 

Position: MPhil Student, 2021-22

Grace's research: Grace's MPhil project focused on quantifying the extent of postcranial skeletal pneumaticity in birds. Grace remained in our lab for her PhD.

Klara Widrig

Position: MPhil student, 2019-20

Klara's researchKlara's MPhil project focused on developing a three-dimensional musculoskeletal atlas of the tinamou Nothoprocta pentlandii. Klara remained in our lab for her PhD.

undergraduate students

Sophie Truepenny

Position: Zoology Part II project Student, 2022-23

Sophie's Research: Sophie investigated the morphology of the hyolingual apparatus in nectarivorous birds for her Part II project.

Rachel Barham

Position: Zoology Part II project Student, 2022-23

Rachel's Research: Rachel investigated the inner ear morphology of owls for her Part II project.

Astrid Xu

Position: Zoology Part II project Student, 2022-23

Astrid's Research: Astrid investigated quadrate morphology in owls for her Part II project.

Charlotte McConnell

Position: Zoology Part II project Student, 2022-23

Charlotte's Research: Charlotte illustrated and described a new fossil from the London Clay Formation for her Part II project.

Georgina Scott

Position: Zoology Part II project Student, 2022-23

Georgina's Research: Georgina characterised aspects of skeletal morphology in presbyornithid fossil birds for her Part II project.

Charles Wolrige Gordon

Position: Zoology Part II project Student, 2022-23

Charles' Research: Charles investigated ear and skull morphology in owls for his Part II project.

 

Kirsty Mellor

Position: Zoology Part II project Student, 2022-23

Kirsty's Research: Kirsty characterised skeletal pneumatisation in the cervical vertebrae of anseriforms for her Part II project.

Emily Smith

Position: Zoology Part II project student, 2021-22

Emily's Research: Emily investigated the internal architecture of avian long bones from a structural perspective.

Natalie Rose

Position: Zoology Part II project student, 2021-22

Natalie's Research: Natalie investigated patterns of ossification in the embryonic skulls of birds.

Alexandra Davies

Position: Zoology Part II project student, 2021-22

Alex's Research: Alex investigated the morphology of the tongue apparatus in sunbirds (Nectariniidae).

Joel Gayford

Position: Zoology Part II project student, 2021-22

Joe's Research: Joel investigated ontogenetic shifts in patterns of allometric growth in sharks. He moved on to a master's at Imperial College London.

Louis Fisher

Position: Zoology Part II project student, 2021-22

Louis' Research: Louis investigated comparative aspects of bone fusion in the bird skull.

 

Kit Baker

Position: MESc student, 2019-2020

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

 

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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