I give an overview of a lecture I attended on the Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs by Professor Steve Brusatte, on the 5th of April 2022 as part of Cardiff University’s Voyage of Discoveries lecture series.
This was a meeting a long time in the making! 2 years in fact! Before I get into meeting Steve Brusatte in person, I wanted to quickly give an overview of who Steve is and the presentation he gave the public as part of the University of Cardiff’s Voyage of Discoveries lecture series.
Professor Steve Brusatte is a world-renowned palaeontologist who until recently I had only had online communication with. Steve did his degree in geophysical sciences at Chicago University and studied under recognised palaeontologist Paul Sereno. Steve studied the MSc in Palaeobiology at the University of Bristol in 2008 supervised by Professor Mike Benton, before going onto do a MPhill in 2011 and a PHD in 2013 at Colombia University.
He then moved to Edinburgh where he has been the Professor of Palaeontology at Edinburgh University ever since. Steve has written many scientific papers and books including his New York Times best seller The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs and consulted on many documentaries and films, including the BBCs 2013 film Walking with Dinosaurs the movie, Colin Trevorrows upcoming Jurassic World sequel Jurassic World: Dominion and Apple TVs upcoming Prehistoric Planet series.
Steve was invited down to the University of Cardiff by eminent Palaeobotanist Professor Dianne Edwards to give a talk on The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs to the Cardiff School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, as part of a lecture series called Voyage of Great Discoveries which is open to the public to attend. Attending the lecture was very spur of the moment for me. The lecture was only announced a week before it was going to take place, so as soon as I saw the announcement, I decided to book tickets (which were free).
Apparently, this lecture had been a long time in the making and due to Covid had been put off until very recently. This was Steve’s first in person lecture since the Covid-19 pandemic had begun, which made the lecture even more special. This was not my first lecture from Steve however, Steve gave a Zoom lecture a while ago to my Bristol Palaeobiology Research group about research he worked on with Julia Schwab his PHD student on the inner ear of extinct crocodylomorphs. A new paper on the ontogenetic variation within crocodilian vestibular system has also been released which you can read here.
Steve’s in person presentation on dinosaurs at the University of Cardiff was fantastic! The presentation itself focused mostly on the fossil discoveries Steve has been involved in on the Isle of Skye in Scotland. It also charted the rise of the dinosaurs throughout the Triassic and Jurassic, along with the feather developments that have been seen in dinosaurs coming out of China, such as that of Zhenyuanlong pictured in the header image (a feathered dromaeosaurid from Liaoning in China). The presentation gave an extensive overview of how we can trace the rise and the fall of the dinosaurs and very much mirrored Steve’s personal accounts of palaeontological fieldwork and storytelling within his bestselling book.
Steve’s talk on palaeontology exuded enthusiasm and passion for the subject. His presentation is probably one of the best palaeontology lectures I have ever attended, and that is saying quite a lot. I left feeling incredibly satisfied, inspired, motivated, and moved to some degree. Not only did I come away definitely knowing palaeontology was the right career for me, but it filled me with hope, that if you worked hard enough you can make a career from the subject.
Getting to meet Steve in person for the first time for me personally was a surreal experience, especially as Steve recognised me from Twitter! We had a great discussion after his presentation about my MSc Palaeobiology studies and my thesis project, we also briefly discussed Jurassic World: Dominion and Prehistoric Planet. Steve signed my copy of his book The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs and was happy to have a few photos with me. It was great to meet a fellow Bristol MSc alumni!
As a palaeontologist and a member of the online Jurassic fandom my interactions with Steve over the past couple of years have been mainly on Twitter. Steve has been great at engaging the Jurassic World fandom online, and it has been fascinating for fans to find out more about his role as a consultant on the upcoming film Jurassic World: Dominion.
The palaeontological developments made to the dinosaurs in Jurassic World: Dominion not only have introduced fully feathered dinosaurs such as the Moros Intrepidus, Oviraptor and Pyroraptor, but have led to designs changes focusing on wrist and arm pronation, the inclusion of pubic bones and other anatomical adjustments make the Jurassic World dinosaurs more animalistic in line with our understanding of palaeontology.
Whilst the Jurassic Park/Jurassic World series will never be truly 100% paleontologically accurate (it is a science fiction film after all!) the changes go a long way in making the dinosaurs look aesthetically pleasing and more anatomically accurate.
All in all, I came away from The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs presentation on a bit of a high. After finishing my Masters in Palaeobiology, this was the first dinosaur lecture I have attended in a bit of a while. Steve’s presentation really resonated with me as an up-and-coming palaeontologist. It not only sparked my imagination but got me thinking about what other dinosaur discoveries are out there. Most of all it made me realise that anything is possible if you work hard enough. Something which is always good to remind yourself of, no matter how often in life when certain things do not work out at a certain time. Hard work, passion and persistence are what matters in the end.
I am planning on writing an article on the upcoming dinosaur documentary series Prehistoric Planet, which airs this coming May. There are many palaeontologists involved in this series and I am looking forward to giving my thoughts on the series once it airs. I also want to cover the recent BBC documentary Dinosaurs: The Final Day with David Attenborough but may make this a double article with Prehistoric Planet, depending on the time available.
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