Matthew
McDowell
Researcher
Australia

The University of Tasmania

Matt’s research focuses on the palaeontology and palaeoecology of late Quaternary Australian native vertebrates. He has studied fossil assemblages collected from the Eyre, Yorke and Fleurieu Peninsulas, the Naracoorte caves, Strzelecki desert and Kangaroo Island regions of South Australia and the and the Kimberley, Pilbara, Great Victoria Desert and Gibson Desert regions of Western Australia. His PhD focused on the effects of climate change and sea-level change induced isolation on the fauna of Kangaroo Island over the last 150, 000 years. His research provided an insight into the pre-human and pre-European native mammal biogeography and how species might respond to future climate change. In 2016 he received an Endeavour Research Fellowship and a Field Museum of Natural History Visiting Scientist Scholarship to research fossil assemblages collected from Australia’s Nullarbor Plain that are curated by the Field Museum of Natural History and Texas Memorial Museum, USA.

 

An essential item in Matt’s toolkit

“My professional ‘toolkit’ is crammed full of things like excavation tools, microscopes, dating techniques and a broad knowledge base of geology, ecology and skeletal morphology, but by far the most essential tools I use are museum collections. Many museums collect and preserve modern and fossil vertebrate natural history collections, and for me, the larger they are the better! Sure, they take up a bit of space, but every species expresses a huge range of physical and molecular characteristics (just take a look at humans!) and only large collections can come close to capturing their full extent. I use museum collections as comparative tools, searching through a multitude of specimens to find one or two that closely match the shapes and patterns I see in the features of fossils I’ve dug up. I also contribute to museum collections by lodging the fossils I’ve identified in a museum. Why? Because museum collections can be accessed by other scientists who can decide for themselves if they agree or disagree with my identifications and the conclusions I make based on them. It’s one of the few way palaeontological research can be repeated and if it isn’t repeatable, it’s just not science!”

 

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