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Ms Emily Swaby

Profile summary

Professional biography

I am a 2nd year PhD research student at The Open University, funded by NERC through the CENTA Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP). My PhD project "The effect of the Toarcian (Early Jurassic) extreme environmental change on insects" is supervised by Prof. Angela Coe (OU), Dr Luke Mander (OU), Dr Bryony Caswell (University of Hull) and Dr Scott Hayward (University of Birmingham). I am an active member and meeting coordinator (September 2021 - Present) for The Open University Palaeoenvironmental Change Research Group within the School of Environment, Earth and Ecosystem Sciences (EEES).

I received a First Class BSc (Hons) degree in Palaeontology from the University of Portsmouth (2015 - 2018) and was awarded the Palaeontological Association Project Prize for the best BSc (Hons) Palaeontology dissertation; my undergraduate thesis investigated the taphonomy of ammonites from the Toarcian Whitby Mudstone Formation, North Yorkshire. I was also awarded the American Association of Stratigraphic Palynologists/The Palynology Society (AASP/TPS) Student Award, and the Palaeontological Association Prize for excellence in the associated undergraduate modules. I then undertook a stand-alone one year Masters degree at the University of Manchester (2018 - 2020) and received an MPhil in Palaeontology for a thesis that focused on a revision of Temnodontosaurus crassimanus (Reptilia: Ichthyosauria) from the Lower Jurassic (Toarcian) of Whitby, Yorkshire, UK. This research formed the basis of my first lead-author scientific paper, published in the journal Historical Biology.

In August 2021, I was part of a small team which excavated the largest, most complete marine reptile skeleton ever unearthed in Britain, at the Rutland Water Nature Reserve. This ichthyosaur most likely belongs to the species Temnodontosaurus trigonodon, a sister taxon to T. crassimanus, the species Dr Dean Lomax and I revised during my MPhil at the University of Manchester. Following the discovery press release (10th January 2022), I was involved in various interviews alongside dig team leaders, including BBC Radio 4 Inside Science and BBC Radio 3 Counties. The excavation of the Rutland ichthyosaur also featured in the BBC 2 series Digging For Britain (Series 9, Episode 4) which aired on the 11th of January, 2022. 

See more about the discovery and my involvement with the excavation of the Rutland ichthyosaur here: 

In July 2022, I was also part of an excavation team which unearthed a Jurassic marine ecosystem (Toarcian, 183 Ma) at a newly found site at Court Farm near Stroud, Gloucestershire. The excavation, which was lead by Sally and Neville Hollingworth, yielded fossil finds including exceptionally preserved fish, ichthyosaur bones, molluscs, coprolites, rare insects and more; the findings are currently being analysed and this research will be subsequently published.

See more about the discovery and my involvement with the excavation of site here:

 

Academic History

PhD Student, The Open Univeristy 2020 - Present

MPhil in Palaeontology, The University of Manchester 2018 - 2020

BSc (Hons) in Palaeontology (First Class Honours), The University of Portsmouth | 2015 - 2018

 

Publications & Conferences

Swaby, E. J. 2022. The discovery and excavation of the Rutland Ichthyosaur. Geologists' Association Aunnual Conference.

Swaby, E. J., Coe, A. L.,  Ansorge, J., Caswell, B. A., Hayward, S. A. L., Mander, L., Stevens, L. G., and McArdle, A. 2022. Taxonomy of the Toarcian palaeoentomofauna assemblage of Alderton Hill, Gloucestershire, UK. 11th International Symposium of the Jurassic System.

Swaby, E. J. 2022. Plesiosaurs, pliosaurs, hybodonts: looking back at three prehistoric predators of the Jurassic seas. The Conversationhttps://theconversation.com/plesiosaurs-pliosaurs-hybodonts-looking-back-at-three-prehistoric-predators-of-the-jurassic-seas-174828

Swaby, E. J. and Lomax, D. R. 2020. A revision of Temnodontosaurus crassimanus (Reptilia: Ichthyosauria) from the Lower Jurassic (Toarcian) of Whitby, Yorkshire, UK. Historical Biology, 33 (11), 2715-2731. https://doi.org/10.1080/08912963.2020.1826469

Swaby, E. J. and Lomax, D. R. 2019. A revision of Temnodontosaurus crassimanus (Reptilia: Ichthyosauria) from the Lower Jurassic (Toarcian) of Whitby, Yorkshire, UK. The Annual Symposium of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Comparative Anatomy. Vol 67.

Awards & Prizes

  • Palaeontology Project Prize (July 2018, University of Portsmouth) – Awarded to the student with the best BSc (Hons) Palaeontology Dissertation.
  • American Association of Stratigraphic Palynologists/The Palynology Society (AASP/TPS) Student Award (Sep 2017, University of Portsmouth) – Awarded to the student with the highest grade in the stratigraphic module.
  • Palaeontological Association Prize (Sep 2017, University of Portsmouth) – Awarded to the student with the highest grade in the invertebrate palaeontology module.
  • University of Leeds Geology Award (Sep 2015, Thomas Rotherham College) – Awarded to the student with the highest A-Level Geology Grade.
  • Thomas Rotherham College Foundation Scholarship (Sep 2015, Thomas Rotherham College) - Awarded to students that achieved AAA, A*AB or A*A*C or above at A-Level.
  • Young Darwin Scholarship (Aug 2014, Field Studies Council, FSC) – Awarded to young people living in the UK who have demonstrated their interest and potential in the natural world.

Grants

  • 2021 Research Grant winner from The Geological Society of London 
    • Amount Awarded: £1500
    • Title of Research Project: "The sedimentology and stratigraphic context of the Toarcian (Early Jurassic) insect-bearing deposits of north-eastern Germany".

Outreach and Science Communication

  • Presented my MPhil research on Temnodontosaurus crassimanus to undergraduate palaeontology students at the University of Portsmouth, UK (27th April, 2021)
  • 1 of 12 women scientists to present research at Soapbox Science Milton Keynes with a talk entitled "Climate change: what can fossil insects tell us?" (14th October, 2021)
  • Presented ongoing PhD research at the temporary exhibition 'Lost ocean: A fossil dive into the sea of monsters' at the Musée national d’histoire naturell, Luxembourg (2nd February, 2022)
  • 1 of 12 women scientists to present research at Soapbox Science Milton Keynes with a talk entitled “Ancient arthropods: what can Jurassic insects tell us about past climate change?” (25th Saturday, 2022)

Research interests

My current research activities are focused on the effect of the Toarcian (Early Jurassic) extreme environmental change on insects.
Insects are now one of the most diverse group of animals and are vital to nearly all terrestrial and freshwater habitats, yet studies suggest that populations are plummeting and approximately 40% of insect species are in decline due to climate change. However, to understand how perturbations to the environment are currently affecting insects, it is important to recognise how extreme environmental change affected them in the past.
The Toarcian was a time of environmental turmoil. Global temperatures rose by approximately 7-10°C, large quantities of CO2 were released into the ocean-atmosphere system, eustatic sea-level rose and organic rich mudrocks were deposited globally. The Toarcian oceanic anoxic event (T-OAE) has been estimated as lasting 0.3 - 0.5 million years, reaching a maximum during the falciferum ammonite Zone, and encapsulates a mass extinction of both marine and terrestrial biota.
My PhD research will establish and explore the relationship between accumulations of fossilised insects, global temperatures and pCO2 increases for the Toarcian palaeoenvironmental change. Through identifying insects and assessing insect leaf damage from shallow-marine successions in the UK and Denmark, I will explore the variations in the changing composition of insect communities during the event and determine if there is any link to the nutritional value of plants during this time.

Publications