About the Society Awards Past Award Winners 2005 (Estes Memorial Grant) 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 SVP Student Poster Prize during the very first SVP meeting I attended. My poster presented the main results of my Palaeobiology MSc thesis on the reptiles of Pant 4 fissure, including a new species of Clevosaurus, which also became my very first publication in the field of paleontology.