In 1981, to my immense surprise, I was successful in my application for the post of
Assistant Curator in the
University Museum of Zoology, Cambridge. The combination of museum qualifications and a
research interest in early tetrapods was apparently just what they were looking for.
I'd honestly expected to go back into provincial museums as a curator after my PhD, and
was somewhat overawed by the thoughts of Cambridge to begin with. I still can't quite
believe someone pays me to play with wonderful fossils in such a prestigious institution!
After finishing my PhD in 1984, casting around for material to work on next, I
uncovered the material of Acanthostega
in the Department of Earth Sciences, whose
story is told on the Expeditions
As Curator, I have several different strands to my work: curation,
teaching, administration and research. Each of these is supposed to take about one third
of my time (!).
I am a tenured member of staff of the Department of Zoology - the
University Museum of Zoology is an integral part of the Department of Zoology, and its
Director is a Professor in the Department. (See the web site for the Department and Museum:
etc..) I am responsible for planning and
in part executing displays of vertebrates - mainly fish,
amphibians and reptiles, both extant and fossil - in the
museum, for students and the general public. I liaise with the Collections Manager and
advise on specimen care, loans, storage, exhibits, and the needs of academic visitors
to the collections.
Teaching duties include courses for second and final year students
in the Natural
Sciences Tripos at Cambridge. In their second year (known as Part IB),
can take a variety of options including 'Animal Biology'. I teach a series of six
lectures and practicals in the Vertebrate Biology section of the course (the whole
course is not modular, but is assessed on an end-of-year exam and continuously
assessed practicals through the year).
In the third year (Part II), those taking Part
II Zoology can choose between seven modules in the Michaelmas Term (October to December)
and seven in the Lent Term (January to March). I run a module known as 'Topic in
Vertebrate Evolution' in the Michaelmas term. It is essentially systematic,
concentrating on phylogeny and diversity of jawless fishes, ray-finned and lobe-finned
fishes, early tetrapods, and amniotes excluding mammals.
About 20 students take this
course, and one of its key features is the accompanying demonstrations of original
fossil and extant material to illustrate the lecture course, using the collections of
the Museum of Zoology.