I’m a New Zealander – paleontologist, geologist, photographer, traveler.
I was born in Dunedin, but a few months later my family shifted to the small town of Alexandra (pop. c. 3,000 at the time). We (my sister came a little later) grew up next to a semi-wild pine forest that was on the other side of the road. A little later again, we moved a few kilometers out of town into the country. We had a big (very big) house, and much of the upstairs was devoted to my ‘museum’. These were the fossils I had started to collect from when I was 8 or 9 years old.
A family trip to the Haast when I was 10 turned up my first plant fossils – and those have been the focus of my research interests ever since.
School was a bus or bike-ride away back in Alexandra, and then at 17 I left the mountains to start at the University of Otago. Towards the end and after finishing my PhD, I was a self-employed photographer in Dunedin, before shifting to Australia. After a post-doc in Tasmania and Queensland, I lectured ecology to groups of visiting American students. In 2007 I left the university and spent five years as a geologist, working mainly in Mongolia, Indonesia and Turkey.
Travelers love to brag about how many countries they’ve visited. Well, I’ve traveled to over 76 – but what really is a ‘country’ and what does it mean to have ‘traveled it’? As a kind of alternative list – I’m seeing how many of the World Wildlife Fund ‘ecoregions’ I can travel to – and get a representative photo.
My main interest is in the deep past of New Zealand- how its vegetation, landscape and climate changed over some 200 million years. I’m primarily a paleobotanist, but with some competence in sedimentology. When I started my research, looking at fossil leaf cuticle was barely known in New Zealand. After realising that it was ‘unknown territory’ I stated a programme of sampling all known carbonaceous sediments in New Zealand and sieving them to see what they contained. The answer has been a wide range of cuticle fragments, and much else besides. To identify these, I’ve had to create a database of extant plant cuticle – and this is now one of the most extensive anywhere.
As well as my New Zealand-wide survey. my key research themes are:
- Central Otago prehistory
- Manuherikia Group – Gore Lignite Measures (Miocene) ecology and stratigraphy
- Cretaceous floristics
- Jurassic paleobotany, sedimentology and stratigraphy of the Catlins Coast
Starting with first-year University, when no-one seemed to work out if I was a botanist or a geologist, I’ve tried to be both. Anyone doing paleobotany should look at real vegetation as much as they can. So far I’ve traveled to over 76 countries, and tried to see their characteristic vegetation. A little sub-theme here has been seeing how many WWF ‘ecoregions’ I can get to.
My research has been published in over 80 papers and you can get pdfs of most of them on this page.
Also check out:
I’ve also published my research in over 80 papers.
Where have I been?
Well, a couple of ways to look at this:
Visited 78 UN countries (40.4%) out of 193.
Make your own visited countries map.
- World Wildlife Fund ‘ecoregions’ I have traveled to – and got a representative photo.
- The standard countries and some regions/provinces: