News in summary
The University’s annual prize for engaging the public with science has been awarded to palaeontologist Dr Steve Brusatte.
This prize, awarded during the Edinburgh Science Festival, recognises and rewards the University’s outstanding science communicators. Its winner is invited to deliver a prize lecture at which the award is presented.
Dr Brusatte, a Reader in Vertebrate Palaeontology in the School of GeoSciences, was unable to accept the prize in person as he was undertaking research work in the US.
The award lecture at the University’s Playfair Library included a pre-recorded video introducing Dr Brusatte and his team’s research, including fieldwork and discoveries of new species of fossil animals. The event also featured Michela Johnson, a research student in Dr Brusatte’s team.
The Tam Dalyell Prize for Excellence in Engaging the Public with Science began in 2008. It is named in honour of Dr Tam Dalyell, the politician and enthusiastic science communicator who wrote a weekly New Scientist columnist for 36 years. Dr Dalyell was Rector of the University of Edinburgh from 2003-2006 and died in 2017.
Dr Brusatte has published six books, including the adult popular science book The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs and the coffee table book Dinosaurs. His research is profiled often in the popular press and he is a resident palaeontologist and scientific consultant for the BBC's Walking With Dinosaurs.
Dr Brusatte’s research interests include the origin and early evolution of dinosaurs in the Triassic era, carnivorous theropod dinosaurs, including T. rex, the evolution of birds, the mass extinction and the recovery of mammals and the evolution of marine animals during the Mesozoic era. He does fieldwork in Scotland, Romania, and New Mexico.
Dr Steve Brusatte, School of GeoSciences, said:
"We face so many challenges in the world today that can only be solved by science. Studying dinosaurs isn't going to cure cancer or build more energy-efficient technologies, but it does give us a unique window on how real animals and ecosystems have responded to climate and environmental change during the long history of the Earth. And dinosaurs are a gateway – they get so many people enthused about science. So many doctors, engineers, drug designers, you name it – they got started in science as kids through their love of dinosaurs."
Michela Johnson, Postgraduate student, School of GeoSciences, said:
"For me, sharing one's research with the public is both immensely rewarding and thought provoking: we, as scientists, are able to show and explain what we work on, how we accomplish this work, and why it is important, how it fits into the big picture that is the modern world. It is such an amazing feeling, when you're able to genuinely wow and interest someone – be it with dinosaurs, crocodiles, plants, mammals, insects or others – about the natural world, and get them asking their own questions about it."