2005 Estes Award Recipient
Laura K. Säilä
I was born and raised in Helsinki, Finland. After high school I studied zoology at Open University (Helsinki) for a year, and in 1998 was accepted into Helsinki University for an undergraduate degree, leading to an MSc in Ecological and Morphological Zoology.
I was initially planning to become a marine biologist, but after studying geology and paleontology as minor subjects under Professor Mikael Fortelius, I decided to specialize in vertebrate paleontology. Finland, unfortunately, has a very scarce fossil record, so after finishing the undergraduate part of my zoology degree, I took a year off to do a Palaeobiology MSc in the University of Bristol, UK, during 2001-2002.
My thesis project in Bristol, supervised by Professor Mike Benton and Dr Pam Gill, was a re-description of the reptiles of Pant 4 fissure, part of a micro-vertebrate fauna from the Lower Jurassic of South Wales. Afterwards, I returned to Helsinki to finish my zoology MSc, and graduated in 2004. In October 2004, I returned to Bristol to start a PhD on the evolution, the interrelationships and the biogeography of the parareptilian clade Procolophonoidea.
It was an honor to receive the Richard Estes Memorial Award during the very first SVP meeting I attended. The award enabled me to spend three weeks in the Moscow Paleontological Institute (PIN), studying their extensive collections of Permian and Triassic procolophonoids and other parareptiles.