November 24th 2014 – Steve Portugal, Royal Holloway

Steve PortugalI’m a comparative ecophysiologist working at London’s Royal Holloway University. My research is located at the interface of the physiology, sensory ecology and behaviour of vertebrates. The common theme of my work focuses on how animals adapt their behaviour and ecology to the challenges of their environment, within the constraints of their own physiological and anatomical limitations. Such questions are particularly important in the light of global environmental change and exploitation of natural resources. I am particularly interested in the extreme athletes of the animal kingdom – the long-distance migratory birds. I want to know how they cope with such intense exercise, what happens to their bodies before and during these mammoth flights, and what behavioural and physiological mechanisms they deploy to prepare for these events. I am also fascinated by bird navigation, particularly how groups and flocks of birds potentially work together to improve their abilities to get home and/or learn new migration routes. Other interests include bird vision and the ramifications this has for windfarm developments, and the aggression physiology of the amazing Siamese Fighting Fish. ​

August 25th 2014 – John R. Hutchinson, Royal Veterinary College

The text below is taken from John’s staff bio page at the RVC:

JohnHutchinsonI’m a biologist originally from the USA who now resides in the UK as a dual citizen. I received my Bachelor of Science degree in Zoology at the University of Wisconsin in 1993, then obtained my PhD in Integrative Biology at the University of California (Berkeley) with Kevin Padian in 2001, and rounded out my training with a two-year National Science Foundation bioinformatics Postdoctoral Fellow at the Biomechanical Engineering Division of Stanford University with Scott Delp.

I started at the RVC as a Lecturer in Evolutionary Biomechanics in 2003 in the Department of Comparative Biomedical Sciences, and I was promoted to Reader in 2008, then Professor in 2011. My interests are in the evolutionary biomechanics of locomotion, especially in large terrestrial vertebrates. I’ve studied birds, extinct dinosaurs and their relatives, elephants, and crocodiles. See the sidebar for more about my research, team, publications and external collaborations/memberships.

I am an Associate Editor for Proceedings of the Royal Society B (Biological Sciences), and the new open access journal PeerJ journal. From September 2012-2013 I was a Senior Research Fellow funded by the Royal Society Leverhulme Trust. I have won the Society for Vertebrate Paleontology’s Romer Prize (2000), am an elected Fellow of the Linnean Society and Society of Biology, and was awarded the Charles Darwin lecture at the British Science Festival in 2012 as well as the RCVS Share Jones Lecture in Veterinary Anatomy in 2011. I am an executive committee member in the International Society for Vertebrate Morphology. I was an external examiner for the University of Manchester’s MRes programme in Biomechanics, and frequently advise my own MSc students in the RVC’s Wild Animal Biology programme, or can supervise MRes projects (contact me to discuss).

My team’s current research projects include:

  • The biomechanics and pathology of mammalian feet.
  • The locomotor biomechanics and ontogeny of chickens; also emus and other birds.
  • The evolution of terrestrial locomotion in early tetrapods .
  • Locomotor evolution in dinosaurs (including Tyrannosaurus and birds), crocodiles, elephants, giraffes and other groups .
  • The evolution and biomechanics of sesamoid (tendon-anchoring) bones in vertebrate limbs.

Science communication is a major priority for my team’s work– science is fun, inspiring, and vital to society –and we like to share the joy! I use Twitter (@JohnRHutchinson) and my personal blog “What’s in John’s Freezer?” to help further this goal. Additionally, my team’s research is frequently featured in the international media, having been covered in hundreds of print/web stories since 2002. An example of my online work is The Conversation UK’s popular blog article “The science of anatomy is undergoing a revival”.

I was a consultant on Theropod Biomechanics at the American Museum of Natural History’s “Dinosaurs: Ancient Fossils, New Discoveries” (12 May 2005-January 2006) exhibit, now travelling to other museums. I am the Chief Paleontology Advisor for the wonderfully interactive “Be the Dinosaur” exhibit currently touring museums in the USA:

I have been featured in at least 9 TV documentaries since 2004, including T. rex: Warrior or Wimp? (2004; BBC2), The Truth About Killer Dinosaurs (2005; BBC1; Dinosaur Face-Off in USA), Evolutions- Dino Turkey (2008; National Geographic Channel), Dino Gangs (2011; Discovery Channel), How to Build a Dinosaur (2011; BBC4), Nature Shock (Giraffe) (2013; Channel 5 and Smithsonian), Secrets of Bones (2 episodes, 2014; BBC4), Fossil Wonderlands (2014; BBC4), episodes of Discovery Channel-Canada’s Daily Planet, and other programmes worldwide. I also was a featured researcher in 2 episodes (elephant, crocodile) of documentary Inside Nature’s Giants BAFTA-award winning programme (Channel 4 UK; also National Geographic Channel’s Raw Anatomy) and have been a regular consultant for this and other documentaries (frequent requests; often paid in official role).