2005 Predoctoral Grant Recipient

Butler Richard Butler

I am very honoured to accept the SVP Predoctoral Award 2005, and would like to thank the Award committee and SVP for giving me this opportunity to further my research. I would also like to thank my PhD supervisors, Dr David Norman (Sedgwick Museum, Cambridge), Dr Paul Upchurch (University College, London) and Dr Angela Milner (Natural History Museum, London), as well as Dr Paul Barrett (Natural History Museum, London) who kindly supplied a letter of recommendation.

I grew up on a farm in the English-Welsh borderlands and inherited from my father a keen love of nature and the outdoors. I was enticed to study geology at Bristol University by the exciting combination of science and fieldwork. I fell in love with palaeontology while at Bristol, due largely to a number of inspiring lecturers including Professors Michael Benton and Derek Briggs. For my undergraduate research project I worked with Dr Richard Twitchett, reassessing the conodont biostratigraphy of the Early Triassic of northern Italy.

After graduating from Bristol in 2002, I took up a PhD studentship funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). This studentship is held jointly at the University of Cambridge (where I spend most of my time) and at the Natural History Museum, London (who provide additional funding under the CASE scheme).

My research has looked at the evolution of the ornithischian dinosaurs, and has covered a broad range of topics including phylogeny, taxonomy, biogeography and functional morphology. Early work focused on new ornithischian material from the Elliot Formation (Late Triassic-Early Jurassic) of Southern Africa. The first results of this work will be published shortly as a single author paper in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society; a second manuscript is in preparation with Dr Roger Smith of the South African Museum.

Later work has included the development of a robust global phylogeny for Ornithischia, and ongoing work on the systematics, anatomy and functional morphology of Middle Jurassic ornithischians from Sichuan, China. A number of research trips have been undertaken to collect data, visiting institutions in Europe, South Africa, China and North America. A coauthored paper on the Chinese Middle Jurassic ornithischians is in press at JVP and a manuscript on the Chinese pachycephalosaur record is currently in review.

The SVP Predoctoral Award will give me the freedom to pursue two specific projects: firstly, I intend to visit the Zigong Dinosaur Museum in Sichuan, China, to continue functional and anatomical research on the unusual Middle Jurassic ornithischian Agilisaurus louderbacki. Secondly, I intend to visit Warsaw to collect information on the enigmatic dinosauriform Silesaurus opolensis. Both taxa have the potential to yield valuable information on the early evolution of dinosaurs, and ornithischians in particular, and may give insights into the evolution of feeding strategies and herbivory within Archosauria.

In my spare time I enjoy music, films, reading, travel, playing and watching football (soccer), and spending lazy summer weekends punting on the river in Cambridge.

Photo courtesy of Richard Butler.