DPhil fieldwork contributes to Nature paper

DPhil fieldwork contributes to Nature paper

With his name on a Nature paper published last week, we interviewed graduate student Jack Matthews (St Peter’s 2007, Univ 2011) to find out more about his fieldwork in Canada which contributed to the research.

Q: You must be quite excited to have your name in Nature – how did that come about?
A: It’s a great experience to be involved in a project like this with such well publicised outcomes. The paper was conceived and led by Emily Mitchell at Cambridge University, but also involved Oxford alumnus Alex Liu (St Peter’s 2003) who is now at Bristol University. I helped with the data collection in Newfoundland (the area where my own research is concentrated), as well as putting the outcrops in their wider geological context. I also work closely with the Canadian media to get the publication reported on by the national and provincial media.

Q: How did you get involved in a project based at the University of Cambridge?
A: We’ve all known each other for some time, and have done field work together a number of times. Some of these areas are quite out of the way so when you get the opportunity to have a bit of company – it’s very welcome. Although we individually have specific matters we want to focus on, we will often discuss matters in the field, and help and support each other if someone has a lot to do.

Q: Will this form part of your DPhil thesis?
A: This particular paper won’t form part of my thesis, though it has prompted me to consider things which will affect some areas of my personal research. During this study we were careful to consider possible non-biological processes that could bias our fossil population data set – this will influence a chapter of my research which considers how modern erosion and the way fossil horizons are exhumed can change the way that palaeo-communities are interpreted.

Q: What’s in store for you now, as you near the end of your DPhil studies?
A: Having taken a short sabbatical to serve as the Vice President Graudates at the Student Union, I am now back for the next few months to write up my thesis. If all goes to plan, in the New Year I will start a Postdoc between the Oxford University Museum of Natural History and Memorial University of Newfoundland to look into the ways that the Ediacaran sites are managed within Newfoundland, to ensure that the fossils are properly preserved at the same time as allowing local communities to develop their blossoming geo-tourism industry.

The paper, ‘Reconstructing the reproductive mode of an Ediacaran macro-organism’ by Mitchell, Emily G., Kenchington, Charlotte G., Liu, Alexander G., Matthews, Jack J. and Butterfield, Nicholas J. was published in Nature on 3rd August 2015.

The full University of Cambridge press release is available to read here: www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/earliest-evidence-of-reproduction-in-a-complex-organism