I am enthusiastic about scientific outreach and communicating my research to the public at large. While in high school and college I worked summers and holidays as a sports and features reporter for my hometown newspaper, the Times in Ottawa, Illinois. I got to do cool things like interview Tiger Woods and Pete Rose, cover professional PGA golf and NASCAR racing events, and learn to write lots of short, snappy articles on deadline. I've long been interested in writing and speaking about science, and discussing my work with reporters and fossil enthusiasts remains one of my favorite parts of the job. I have written one technical book for students and researchers and four books and several articles for amateur paleontology audiences, and often give talks to school groups and other educational gatherings. My work has also been extensively covered by the international media and I have appeared in television documentaries and several online outreach videos, am a frequent guest on radio, and have consulted on television programs and films.
Online Science Outreach
The quickest and most effective way to reach science enthusiasts and the next generation of young scientists is through the ever-expanding power of social media and online outreach. I have recently worked with BBC Earth to produce online videos for their new YouTube channel. The first video, part of their Meet My Planet Series, can be seen above (or also seen here). In this video, filmed at the Natural History Museum in London and the University of Oxford's Museum of Natural History, I discuss my passion for paleontology, why paleontology is important, and what a job as a paleontologist actually entails. In a second video, which can also be seen above (and seen here), I discuss 10 of my favorite fossil discoveries of all time. I've also appeared in a few other online videos, including two for the UK charity Filmclub for distribution in British schools, one for NPR's Science Friday series on the bizarre Romanian dromaeosaurid Balaur, a video about careers in science and the latest dinosaur research for the American Association for the Advancement of Science's Science Reporting For Kids series, an American Museum of Natural History video on the dinosaur extinction (which can be seen above), a live online streaming event at the AMNH discussing some of our research on the dinosaur extinction (which can be seen above, and is also archived here), and a live online streaming event hosted by Science with Jack Horner on "What Have We Learned About Dinosaurs Since Jurassic Park?" (which is archived here).
My first technical book, Dinosaur Paleobiology, was published by Wiley-Blackwell in May 2012. The study of dinosaurs has been experiencing a remarkable renaissance over the past few decades. Scientific understanding of dinosaur anatomy, biology, and evolution has advanced to such a degree that paleontologists often know more about 100–million–year–old dinosaurs than many species of living organisms. This book provides a contemporary review of dinosaur science intended for students, researchers, and dinosaur enthusiasts. It reviews the latest knowledge on dinosaur anatomy and phylogeny, how dinosaurs functioned as living animals, and the grand narrative of dinosaur evolution across the Mesozoic. A particular focus is on the fossil evidence and explicit methods that allow paleontologists to study dinosaurs in rigorous detail. Scientific knowledge of dinosaur biology and evolution is shifting fast, and this book aims to summarize current understanding of dinosaur science in a technical, but accessible, style, supplemented with vivid photographs and illustrations. For more information, see the book's homepage on Wiley-Blackwell's website and this review by Dr. Heinrich Mallison. The book can also be ordered from amazon.com or amazon.co.uk. The book has received positive reviews from fellow academics. It was "highly recommended" by Choice magazine, who said that "anyone serious about learning details of dinosaur biology would do no better than to read this book." Writing in Geological Journal, Paul Barrett said that the book is "currently the best (dinosaur textbook) on the market." In Historical Biology, Jim Farlow described the book as "a splendid text" that is "one of the most useful books in my personal library." David Norman, writing in Geological Magazine, commented that he could "unhesitatingly recommend (the book)" to his own undergraduates and postgraduate students.Popular Books
I wrote my first book, Stately Fossils, while I was in high school. It was published in 2002 by Fossil News magazine, a wonderful monthly publication for avocational paleontologists published by my friend Lynne Clos, but sadly recently defunct. It describes the official state fossils and state dinosaurs of the various US states that have designated such symbols. My second book, the large coffee table tome Dinosaurs, was published in 2008 by Quercus in London. It has been billed as the physically largest book on dinosaurs ever published, weighing in at nearly 10 pounds and with a cover measuring some 17 by 14 inches. Always glad to add to the hyperbole associated with dinosaurs, and it's ironic that a scrawny guy like me would write THE biggest book on dinosaurs. My third book, Field Guide to Dinosaurs, was published in August 2009 by Quercus. It is aimed for a younger audience, and recreates a Mesozoic safari in which the reader can observe dinosaurs from the safety of a armored vehicle equipped with powerful telescopes and the like. My fourth and most recent popular book is the Walking With Dinosaurs 3D Encyclopedia, a companion book to the WWD 3D film that was released in December 2013 and published by HarperCollins. I've also contributed to several other books as a writer, consultant, and fact checker. Chief among these is the wonderful Dorling Kindersley encyclopedia Prehistoric Life (2009), for which I wrote several entries. I was also a consultant and writer for DK's Eyewitness: Prehistoric Life book (2012) and wrote the DK children's quiz book Were Stegosaurs Carnivores? (2012).
I was a scientific consultant for the blockbuster family film Walking With Dinosaurs 3D, which was released in December 2013 in cinemas worldwide. I was one of several paleontologists who consulted on the film. I also consulted on a range of other threads related to the film. I was the lead scientific consultant for the Sony Wonderbook video game, which takes kids on a virtual reality adventure into the world of dinosaurs. I also consulted on the WWD toy series, making sure that the dinosaur toys were scientifically accurate. I wrote the dinosaur encyclopedia accompanying the film, the Walking With Dinosaurs 3D Encyclopedia, which provides an overview of the world of dinosaurs, gives all of the vital stats on the dinosaurs portrayed in the film, and discusses the science behind the film. I was also a consultant on the film's website. For the year before the film was released I was the "resident palaeontologist" on the website, and answered questions from readers every week, as well as provided news articles on the latest dinosaur discoveries. I took part in promoting the film, working with Fox in the US and UK and BBC in the UK to discuss the film with journalists. I appeared on BBC Breakfast with Neil Nightingale, the director of the film, to discuss the science behind the story. My role as a consultant was profiled by New Scientist, National Geographic, the Huffington Post UK, the Huffington Post US, the Herald (Scotland), and Geek Dad, among others. I also worked with New Scientist to make a short online video about the science portrayed in the film. The film is squarely intended for kids and families (hence the voiceovers and talking dinosaurs), but there is no doubt in my mind that the dinosaurs are the most realistic and accurate and stunning that have ever appeared on the silver screen, or any screen for that matter. Neil Nightingale, Barry Cook, and the rest of the team from BBC made a huge effort over four years of development to ensure that the science behind the film was on the ball. That level of commitment to accuracy should be celebrated.
Media and the Popular Press
here, here, here, here, here, here, and here). I have also done several radio interviews for the BBC, NPR, and stations in Australia, Britain, Canada, Colombia, Ireland, New Zealand, and the US, among other countries, including spots on the Science Show with Robyn Williams (ABC), Quirks and Quarks (CBC), and Science Fantastic with Michio Kaku (a few examples here, here, here, here, here, and here). And I've done a number of public talks and other outreach events (a live online question-and-answer session on some of my research is archived here). My work has been featured in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, USA Today, and Time Magazine, among other news publications. And, my work has appeared in National Geographic, New Scientist, Discover, Scientific American, Earth Magazine, and BBC Focus magazine. Even though the message gets mangled at times, I always enjoy speaking with reporters. Many are shocked when I tell them that I used to be a journalist myself!
Aside from interviews and coverage dealing with my research, I have appeared in two television documentaries. Most notably, I was a talking head in the 2008 National Geographic Channel program Morphed: From Dinosaur to Turkey. I also appeared in The Mystery Dinosaur, produced by Dave Monk at Brave New Pictures and showcased in 75 countries on the Discovery Channel and the Science Channel. Normally ugly people like me are not put on television. I was also a consultant on the BBC television series Dinosaur Planet (2011), which also featured some of my research on theropod dinosaurs.
I have spoken about fossils, dinosaurs, and evolution to audiences ranging from elementary school students to professional scientists. I always enjoy sharing my research, and information on paleontology in general, with whoever is willing to listen! I have spoken at public outreach events such as the Burpee Museum's annual Paleofest lecture series, and while studying in the UK I spoke at several universities, with my friend Jamie Gianoutsos, about the phenomenon of creationism in the United States (a perpetual topic of confusion and twisted interest in Europe).
I learned much about dinosaurs and paleontology by writing articles for Fossil News, Prehistoric Times, Dinosaur World, Dino Press, and other amateur paleontology publications while in high school. I continue to write for Fossil News and Prehistoric Times (sadly the other two mentioned are now extinct). For a long while I wrote a monthly "kids corner" column for Fossil News, aimed at middle school and high school teachers and students. Each December I write a yearly review of paleontology discoveries for Prehistoric Times. This is always a lot of fun, as it gives me the chance to not only remember the year's best finds, but also write for an audience comprised primarily of paleoartists and amateur collectors.