I am a 3rd 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 previously meeting coordinator (September 2021 - Present) for The Open University Palaeoenvironmental Change Research Group within the School of Environment, Earth and Ecosystem Sciences (EEES). I am also the CENTA Student Representative for the 2020/21 Cohort (Oct. 2020 – Present).
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:
PhD Student, The Open University | 2020 - Present
MPhil in Palaeontology, The University of Manchester | 2018 - 2020
BSc (Hons) in Palaeontology (First Class Honours), The University of Portsmouth | 2015 - 2018
Published Works (including peer-reviewed papers, popular science articles and conference abstracts/presentations)
Swaby, E. J. 2022. The Rutland Ichthyosaur: from discovery to excavation. Geologists' Association Annual 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.
Lomax, D. R., Larkin, N. R., Nicholls, E. L., Boomer, I., Dey, S., Withers, D., Swaby, E. J., de la Salle, P., Savory, D., Beeson, M. and Rye, P. 2022. Excavating the “Sea Dragon Dinosaur Dolphin Fossil” – AKA, The Rutland Ichthyosaur. Marine Reptiles Conference.
Swaby, E. J. 2022. Plesiosaurs, pliosaurs, hybodonts: looking back at three prehistoric predators of the Jurassic seas. The Conversation.
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. 2022. The effect of the Toarcian (Early Jurassic) extreme environmental change on insects. Lost ocean: A fossil dive into the sea of monsters (Musée national d’histoire naturelle, Luxembourg).
Swaby, E. J., Coe, A. L., Caswell, B. A., Hayward, S. & Mander, L. 2021. The effect of the Toarcian (Early Jurassic) extreme environmental change on insects. CENTA Conference.
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.
Swaby, E. J. 2018. (Not) All About Allosaurus! The Overlooked Theropods of the Morrison Formation. Fossil News – The Journal of Avocational Paleontology. 21.4, 34-38.
Swaby, E. J. 2017. Exploring ammonite diversity along the North Yorkshire coast – the Whitby Mudstone Formation. Fossil News – The Journal of Avocational Paleontology. 19.3, 45-50.
Swaby, E. J. 2016. Saltwick Bay, North Yorkshire. Deposits Magazine, 45, 14-16.
Grants, Awards & Prizes
Outreach & Science Communication
(Aug. – Sep. 2018) The Wyoming Dinosaur Center and Dig Sites, USA – Summer Internship
(April 2017) Lyme Regis Fossil Festival – Festival Volunteer
(July 2012 - May 2015) Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery – CIRCA Project Volunteer.
(Sep. 2015 – Aug. 2020) Wath Church of England Primary School – Visitor/Speaker.
Presently, insects are one of the most diverse group of animals and are vital to nearly all terrestrial and freshwater habitats, yet studies suggest that populations 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 geological record for the Toarcian Oceanic Anoxic event (T-OAE) is characterized by several fossil insect horizons across Western Europe, particularly the UK, Germany and Luxembourg. These horizons are all preserved in marine deposits and the presence of these insect accumulations within the T-OAE suggests that their occurrence could be linked to palaeoclimatic and palaeoecological conditions of the Toarcian event. Although the relationship between insect accumulations and the palaeoenvironmental change of the Toarcian is currently unknown, my PhD research aims to establish and explore this link.
A revision of Temnodontosaurus crassimanus (Reptilia: Ichthyosauria) from the Lower Jurassic (Toarcian) of Whitby, Yorkshire, UK (2021)
Swaby, Emily J. and Lomax, Dean. R
Historical Biology, 33(11) (pp. 2715-2731)