I am a first year PhD research student at The Open University, funded by NERC through the CENTA Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP), and an active member in the Palaeoenvironmental Change Research Group within the School of Environment, Earth and Ecosystem Sciences (EEES). 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 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 scientific paper, published in the journal Historical Biology.
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
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. 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.
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.