I am a palaeontologist living and working in Alice Springs, in the red centre of Australia. I moved here with my wife and three kids from Johannesburg, South Africa. I used to focus my research on dinosaurs, and it is fair to say I am still a dino nut but these days I work on fossils from the NT, be they turtles, tassie tigers or anything else. In my spare time I like to watch birds, catch beetles, lizards and snakes and generally find out as much about the species around me as I can.
One of the aspects of academic life in a small research institute is that you are sometimes called upon to supervise student projects that are outside your normal sphere of research activities. Broadening your experience and knowledge can only be a good thing so I welcome this. It also can provide an outlet of unusual activities that can break the monotony of the usual working week. I am currently supervising one such project that is proving to be quite entertaining. The project is centred upon the almost entirely neglected herpetofauna that occurs alongside the famous Australopithecus fossils of the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Area. I found out, much to my surprise, when this project was started that there are no comparative osteological collections of southern african reptiles available in South Africa. So we have had to set about creating one. Fortunately we have been given permission to prepare the skulls of duplicate specimens from the Transvaal Museum collections. I was very pleasantly surprised at the breadth of the taxonomic scope we were supplied with - two specimens of over 40 species from the eastern half of South Africa. So it was with some excitment that we took consignment of the above pictured and rather full bucket of lizards (Can anyone name the species visible? I'd be impressed if someone managed five or more). Of course it is the students job to prepare the skulls, but with so many to get through, I've been mucking in and helping with the defleshing, which is surprising satisfying work, especially when you finish with a nice clean skull.