Palaeontology expert wins top science medal

Flinders University’s Matthew Flinders Fellow and South Australian Museum earth sciences expert Professor Mike Lee is the recipient of the 2018 Verco Medal.

The Royal Society of South Australia awards this medal to an outstanding researcher who makes a significant and outstanding contribution to a field of science. First awarded in 1929, the Verco Medal is the highest honour that the Society can bestow on one of its Fellows.

Professor Lee is an internationally recognised authority in palaeontology and systematic biology, with more than a dozen Nature/Science papers to his credit.

“I am interested in broad-scale patterns of evolution, such as major changes in body plan, or why some groups speciate much more rapidly than others,” explains Professor Lee, outlining his area of expertise.

“Reptiles are typically the research focus, though I also collaborate with workers on other groups such as birds, mammals and even arthropods.

“I grew up in Queensland in the 1980s, and spent most of my childhood catching and examining any creature that moved, much to my parents’ horror. I now ostensibly get to do this for a living, except that with encroaching age and commitments my research is moving more into theoretical and computational areas.

“I think Bayesian methods (a means of assessing statistics) are the future of science.”

Professor Lee is a valued member of Flinders’ outstanding palaeontology department.

“We are so pleased to have Professor Lee here at Flinders, adding strength to our palaeontology research group,” says Professor John Long, Research Section Head for the Ecology and Evolution research group at Flinders University.

Professor Lee is also helping to inform the next generation about palaeontology, appearing in a new Scope episode about Dinosaurs which has been posted online.

Previous Flinders University recipients of the Verco Medal include  Matthew Flinders Fellow in Global Ecology Professor Corey Bradshaw (in 2017), Professor John Long and Professor David Day, from Biological Sciences in the Flinders University College of Science and Engineering.

Professor Lee will be awarded the medal at the RSSA annual meeting at the South Australian Museum on November 8.

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