When I was five years old (or so) and standing (being carried) on the Northern Irish coast, I (my dad) came across a strange looking shape in the rocks. Although I don’t have an image of the original rock we found, it would have looked something like this:
It was an ammonite – a Paltechioceras specimen – not perfect but it was mine. I (my dad) found it and I was the first (second) pair of eyes to gaze upon it in 190 million years. Since this moment, I had set aside my future to finding out everything I could about the life of the past. I moved to England, studied Geology and Biology at A-level and now, I am in my second year at university studying the grand sounding course of “Palaeobiology and Palaeoenvironments”.
Or, as I like to introduce it as: Palaeontology.
Now, as soon as this is mentioned one of the following four questions is either asked or goes through the head of the listener (or reader, as the case may be).
- “Palaeontology? Like Ross from friends, right?”
- “Why are you studying *that*? Surely your job prospects are limited to, what, teaching and museum curation?”
- “Yeah… I don’t know what Palaeontology is – sorry.”
- “Jurassic Park was great, right? Dinosaurs are so cool.”
Depending who I am talking to, the answers vary from between one word answers and answers which would make my GCSE English teacher very happy indeed. It’s the second one that has caused me bother, though.
Obviously, every child’s (boy or girl) dream is to go out and dig up a dinosaur skeleton when they are older. it was my dream at one point, but more recently I have moved away from that idea and on to more achievable goals. First I was toying with the idea of going into research, and helping shape the future of palaeontological ideas. Then I wanted to go into teaching – but the idea of doing a lot of work for it puts me off. Oil exploration is another option open to me, but not one that appeals to me as much.
My current career goal (and one I hope I see out to the end) comes when I started hearing the third question more and more. “If ‘Palaeontology’ isn’t as household a name as ‘Physics’, ‘Biology’, ‘Astronomy’ or ‘Chemistry’,” I thought to myself, “maybe I should help it to be!”
And here I am.
A career in media and journalism is a long way off – as is any teaching and education work I may end up doing. But I can start here. This blog aims to bring Palaeontology to a new audience, however small it might be, and show that it needn’t be as alien a subject as it is at the moment. It will be scientific, but not anything that requires any highly academic knowledge to understand, and for those interested I will post additional reading with each topic.
I might even try and find a suitable enough Friends scene to show you all.
And yes, Jurassic Park was pretty cool.
Until next time,
~Matt Kerr (But you can call me “Mattchu”)