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Ms Emily Swaby

Profile summary

Professional biography

I am a 3rd year PhD research student at The Open University, funded by NERC through the CENTA Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP). My PhD project "The effect of the Toarcian (Early Jurassic) extreme environmental change on insects" is supervised by Prof. Angela Coe (OU), Dr Luke Mander (OU), Dr Bryony Caswell (University of Hull) and Dr Scott Hayward (University of Birmingham). I am an active member and meeting coordinator (September 2021 - Present) for The Open University Palaeoenvironmental Change Research Group within the School of Environment, Earth and Ecosystem Sciences (EEES). I am also the CENTA Student Representative for the 2020/21 Cohort (Oct. 2020 – Present). 

I received a First Class BSc (Hons) degree in Palaeontology from the University of Portsmouth (2015 - 2018) and was awarded the Palaeontological Association Project Prize for the best BSc (Hons) Palaeontology dissertation; my undergraduate thesis investigated the taphonomy of ammonites from the Toarcian Whitby Mudstone Formation, North Yorkshire. I was also awarded the American Association of Stratigraphic Palynologists/The Palynology Society (AASP/TPS) Student Award, and the Palaeontological Association Prize for excellence in the associated undergraduate modules. I then undertook a stand-alone one year Masters degree at the University of Manchester (2018 - 2020) and received an MPhil in Palaeontology for a thesis that focused on a revision of Temnodontosaurus crassimanus (Reptilia: Ichthyosauria) from the Lower Jurassic (Toarcian) of Whitby, Yorkshire, UK. This research formed the basis of my first lead-author scientific paper, published in the journal Historical Biology.

In August 2021, I was part of a small team which excavated the largest, most complete marine reptile skeleton ever unearthed in Britain, at the Rutland Water Nature Reserve. This ichthyosaur most likely belongs to the species Temnodontosaurus trigonodon, a sister taxon to T. crassimanus, the species Dr Dean Lomax and I revised during my MPhil at the University of Manchester. Following the discovery press release (10th January 2022), I was involved in various interviews alongside dig team leaders, including BBC Radio 4 Inside Science and BBC Radio 3 Counties. The excavation of the Rutland ichthyosaur also featured in the BBC 2 series Digging For Britain (Series 9, Episode 4) which aired on the 11th of January, 2022. 

See more about the discovery and my involvement with the excavation of the Rutland ichthyosaur here: 

In July 2022, I was also part of an excavation team which unearthed a Jurassic marine ecosystem (Toarcian, 183 Ma) at a newly found site at Court Farm near Stroud, Gloucestershire. The excavation, which was lead by Sally and Neville Hollingworth, yielded fossil finds including exceptionally preserved fish, ichthyosaur bones, molluscs, coprolites, rare insects and more; the findings are currently being analysed and this research will be subsequently published.

See more about the discovery and my involvement with the excavation of site here:

 

Academic History

PhD Student, The Open Univeristy 2020 - Present

MPhil in Palaeontology, The University of Manchester 2018 - 2020

BSc (Hons) in Palaeontology (First Class Honours), The University of Portsmouth | 2015 - 2018

 

Publications

Swaby, E. J., Coe, A. L.,  Ansorge, J., Caswell, B. A., Hayward, S. A. L., Mander, L., Stevens, L. G., and McArdle, A. in-prep. The Toarcian (Lower Jurassic) palaeoentomofauna assemblage of Alderton Hill, Gloucestershire, UK.

Swaby, E. J. and Lomax, D. R. 2020. A revision of Temnodontosaurus crassimanus (Reptilia: Ichthyosauria) from the Lower Jurassic (Toarcian) of Whitby, Yorkshire, UK. Historical Biology, 33 (11), 2715-2731. https://doi.org/10.1080/08912963.2020.1826469

 

Published Abstracts (Poster/Oral Presentations)

Swaby, E. J. 2022. The Rutland Ichthyosaur: from discovery to excavation. Geologists' Association Annual Conference.

Swaby, E. J., Coe, A. L.,  Ansorge, J., Caswell, B. A., Hayward, S. A. L., Mander, L., Stevens, L. G., and McArdle, A. 2022. Taxonomy of the Toarcian palaeoentomofauna assemblage of Alderton Hill, Gloucestershire, UK. 11th International Symposium of the Jurassic System.

Swaby, E. J. 2022. The effect of the Toarcian (Early Jurassic) extreme environmental change on insects. Lost ocean: A fossil dive into the sea of monsters (Musée national d’histoire naturelle, Luxembourg).

Swaby, E. J., Coe, A. L., Caswell, B. A., Hayward, S. & Mander, L. 2021. The effect of the Toarcian (Early Jurassic) extreme environmental change on insects. CENTA Conference.

Swaby, E. J. and Lomax, D. R. 2019. A revision of Temnodontosaurus crassimanus (Reptilia: Ichthyosauria) from the Lower Jurassic (Toarcian) of Whitby, Yorkshire, UK. The Annual Symposium of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Comparative Anatomy. Vol 67.

 

Other Publications (Popular Science)

Swaby, E. J. 2022. Plesiosaurs, pliosaurs, hybodonts: looking back at three prehistoric predators of the Jurassic seas. The Conversation.

Swaby, E. J. 2018. (Not) All About Allosaurus! The Overlooked Theropods of the Morrison Formation. Fossil News – The Journal of Avocational Paleontology. 21.4, 34-38.

Swaby, E. J. 2017. Exploring ammonite diversity along the North Yorkshire coast – the Whitby Mudstone Formation. Fossil News – The Journal of Avocational Paleontology. 19.3, 45-50. 

Swaby, E. J. 2016. Saltwick Bay, North Yorkshire. Deposits Magazine, 45, 14-16.

 

Grants, Awards & Prizes

  • Geological Society of London Research Grant winner (April 2021) – Awarded to study the sedimentology and stratigraphic context of the Early Jurassic insect-bearing deposits of north-eastern Germany (£1500).
  • Palaeontology Project Prize (July 2018, University of Portsmouth) – Awarded to the student with the best BSc (Hons) Palaeontology Dissertation.
  • American Association of Stratigraphic Palynologists/The Palynology Society (AASP/TPS) Student Award (Sep 2017, University of Portsmouth) – Awarded to the student with the highest grade in the stratigraphic module.
  • Palaeontological Association Prize (Sep 2017, University of Portsmouth) – Awarded to the student with the highest grade in the invertebrate palaeontology module.
  • University of Leeds Geology Award (Sep 2015, Thomas Rotherham College) – Awarded to the student with the highest A-Level Geology Grade.
  • Thomas Rotherham College Foundation Scholarship (Sep 2015, Thomas Rotherham College) - Awarded to students that achieved AAA, A*AB or A*A*C or above at A-Level.
  • Young Darwin Scholarship (Aug 2014, Field Studies Council, FSC) – Awarded to young people living in the UK who have demonstrated their interest and potential in the natural world.

 

Outreach & Science Communication

  • 1 of 12 women scientists to present research at Soapbox Science Milton Keynes with a talk entitled "Climate change: what can fossil insects tell us?" (14th October, 2021)
  • 1 of 12 women scientists to present research at Soapbox Science Milton Keynes with a talk entitled “Ancient arthropods: what can Jurassic insects tell us about past climate change?” (25th Saturday, 2022)

 

Experience

(Aug. – Sep. 2018) The Wyoming Dinosaur Center and Dig Sites, USA – Summer Internship 

  • Worked alongside palaeontologists to develop key skills in excavating, identifying and preparing specimens from active dig sites within the Morrison Formation, including specimens of Allosaurus, Camarasaurus and Diplodocus.
  • Independently ran excavation programmes, including ‘Dig for a Day’, ‘Kids Dig’ and ‘Road Scholar’, which involved teaching visitors how to use excavation equipment correctly and highlighting the nature of their finds, whilst maintaining safety on the active dig sites - this improved my ability to manage various tasks simultaneously within a limited time.
  • Conducted fully guided museum tours, which allowed me to develop my communication skills and my ability to educate others in the field of palaeontology.  

 

(April 2017) Lyme Regis Fossil Festival – Festival Volunteer

  • Ran interactive opportunities for school groups and assisted on geological walks along Monmouth Beach, which required resourcefulness to adapt sessions to the knowledge of various audiences and developed my ability to work independently. 

 

(July 2012 - May 2015) Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery – CIRCA Project Volunteer.

  • Assisted in cataloguing and organising the museum’s fossil collection of over 12,000 specimens alongside Palaeontologist Dean R. Lomax, in addition to helping out at several fossil identification days that were open to the public. This gave me valuable hands-on experience in systematically identifying and categorising specimens and their provenance, within a museum environment.

 

(Sep. 2015 – Aug. 2020) Wath Church of England Primary School – Visitor/Speaker.

  • Devised and conducted several self-organised presentations, hands-on lessons and skype sessions to classes of children aged 5 – 11 years, including coordinating question and answer discussions on the topics of palaeontology and geology.

Research interests

Presently, insects are one of the most diverse group of animals and are vital to nearly all terrestrial and freshwater habitats, yet studies suggest that populations are in decline due to climate change. However, to understand how perturbations to the environment are currently affecting insects, it is important to recognise how extreme environmental change affected them in the past. The geological record for the Toarcian Oceanic Anoxic event (T-OAE) is characterized by several fossil insect horizons across Western Europe, particularly the UK, Germany and Luxembourg. These horizons are all preserved in marine deposits and the presence of these insect accumulations within the T-OAE suggests that their occurrence could be linked to palaeoclimatic and palaeoecological conditions of the Toarcian event. Although the relationship between insect accumulations and the palaeoenvironmental change of the Toarcian is currently unknown, my PhD research aims to establish and explore this link.

Publications