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Palaeontologist

Steve - a palaeontologist at the University of New South Wales Dr Stephen Wroe is a QE2 Research Fellow at the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences (BEES) at UNSW.

In which area or areas of science do you work? When did you first become interested in this career? What education and training do you have to have for your job? What are the tasks that you do in a typical day?
What skills do you use in your job? What is the most exciting aspect of your job? What do you enjoy most about your job? What has been a highlight of your career?
Has your career given you an opportunity for travelling? If so, where? What do you like least about your job? What are some of the advantages of working in this field? What are some of the disadvantages of working in this field?
How has your work contributed to science? How has your work benefited society? Where do you see yourself in five years time? Find out more about vertebrate palaeontology and Stephen's work

In which area or areas of science do you work?

Palaeontology - in particular vertebrate palaeontology


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When did you first become interested in this career?

As long as I can remember, like many kids I was always interested in fossils.


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What education and training do you have to have for your job?

I did a degree in Zoology and then an Honours and PhD in palaeontology. It took longer that I'd generally care to admit - I was running a security business throughout my postgraduate years and my studies were part-time - all told it took around 10 years.

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What are the tasks that you do in a typical day?

I set my own tasks and goals. Most of my day is typically spent researching specific topics, gathering and analysing data and writing up my results with a view to having them published.

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What skills do you use in your job?

Analytical and writing skills are fundamental - but these days a scientist has to be a real jack-of-all-trades. The ability to successfully chase funding, always important, has become absolutely critical. Today's scientist increasingly requires sales, management and media skills.

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What is the most exciting aspect of your job?

Cracking open a rock to find the skull of an animal no one even knew existed is hard to beat for me.

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What do you enjoy most about your job?

Coming up with a novel idea - no matter how seemingly small - testing it - and finding that it works. But, provided your basic science is good, even when your conclusions turn out to be wrong, you've made a useful contribution. Actually getting paid to think is a real bonus.

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What has been a highlight of your career?

The opportunity to work on a good deal of spectacular new fossil material has been an ongoing thrill.

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Has your career given you an opportunity for travelling? If so, where?

I've had the opportunity to travel quite a lot. Mostly to the quite scenic, fossil rich deposits of Riversleigh in NW Queensland, but also to other parts of the world, including Europe and Nth America.


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What do you enjoy least about your job?

Chasing money to pay for my research

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What are some of the advantages to working in this field?

I suppose the real advantage for me is that I'm lucky enough to be being paid to do exactly what I want to do.

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What are some of the disadvantages to working in this field?

The disadvantages are that it is a very tight field with relatively few opportunities - success takes real hard work and dedication and even then, more than a little good luck.

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How has your work contributed to science?

Hard for me to judge - but I've described quite a few new species of fossil marsupials and helped workout how they and living marsupials are related to each other as well as how they lived and interacted.

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How has your work benefited society?

Again hard to say - but I think that the work of myself and other palaeontologists helps to put our understanding of life in a broader context.

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Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?

Hopefully doing the same thing.

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Find out more about vertebrate palaeontology

If you wish to ask Stephen for additional information, you can email UniServe Science and we will contact Stephen for you. Make sure you include Stephen's name and occupation in the Subject line.

You can find out more about the vertebrate palaeontology and Stephen's work from

Stephen's web site at the University of Sydney

Riversleigh - Australian Fossil site from Australian Museum

Fascinating Animal Facts - from Australia's Lost Kingdoms


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Last Update: Monday, 30-Apr-2012 16:28:08 AEST
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