2006 Skinner Award Recipient
Varavudh Suteethorn was born on October 10, 1948, in Nakhon Pathom, Thailand. He received a bachelor's degree in Geology from Chiang Mai University in 1967 and began a career as a geologist in the Geological Survey Division, Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) in 1974. His work in geological mapping around the Western and Northeastern areas proved fortunate, for he discovered many of the localities contained fossils.
There were no vertebrate palaeontologists in Thailand until 1980, when a dinosaur expedition team was established under the cooperation of the Thai (DMR) and French governments. Varavudh has been a member of the team since its inception; through his work with DMR, he knew the Northeastern area very well which lead to numerous fossil discoveries. Varvavudh learned fossil preparation and conservation in France and Canada and received the certificated of Vertebrate Palaeontology from the University of Paris VI, France, in 1986.
In 1992, Varavudh became a leader of the Thai dinosaur team. Twenty-five years of dedication and hard work have resulted in the discovery of many important sites, mainly in the “Khorat plateau" of Northeastern Thailand, which range in age from the Triassic to the Cretaceous of non-marine Mesozoic rock, . For example, the “Phu Kum Khao” site is rich in dinosaur specimens and more than 300 Lepidotes specimens were discovered at the “Phu Nam Jun” site. The team has discovered many specimens and published numerous papers both at national and international levels. Among the main results of this cooperation are the discoveries of plants, invertebrates and vertebrates. For instance, the deposits of Khorat plateau have yielded 16 species of dinosaurs, including the ancestor of the tyrannosaur (Siamotyrannus isanensis, described in Nature in 1996) and the earliest known sauropod dinosaur (Isanosaurus attavipachi, described in Nature in 2000). Vertebrate other than dinosaurs also occur, including freshwater sharks, bony fishes, temnospondyl amphibians, turtles, phytosaurs, crocodiles and pterosaurs.
Varavudh is an outstanding member of the team responsible for establishing the dinosaur museum, which has since become one of the foremost museums of its kind in Southeast Asia. He is not only a dedicated researcher but also an attentive lecturer. He teaches a wide variety of students, from kindergartners to medical students and other teachers. His outstanding research inspires his students to jump into the palaeontology and geology fields. Moreover, his teaching and training programs give his student-teachers confidence in their careers, helping them develop techniques in scientific method for their students. Palaeontology in Thailand, especially dinosaur-related palaeontology, would not have succeeded without him, nor would have the first dinosaur search in that nation, nor the Thai-French dinosaur expedition team.
Photo courtesy of Varavudh Suteethorn.