Stephen Brusatte

2021 United Kingdom Award Winner — Faculty

Stephen Brusatte

Current Position:
Professor of Paleontology and Evolution

Institution:
The University of Edinburgh

Discipline:
Ecology & Evolutionary Microbiology

Recognized for: A profound contribution to our understanding of the anatomy, genealogy, evolution, and extinction of the dinosaurs, and the origin of birds from dinosaurs. He has pioneered new techniques for studying anatomical evolution and uses statistics to study genealogy and evolution. He is also a powerful science communicator, having penned a New York Times Bestselling book, The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs.

Areas of Research Interest and Expertise: Evolutionary Biology, Paleontology, Vertebrate Paleobiology

Previous Positions:

BS, University of Chicago, USA
MSc, University of Bristol, UK
MPhil, Columbia University, USA
PhD, Columbia University, USA

Research Summary:

Stephen Brusatte, PhD, seeks to better understand how evolution works over long timescales through the discovery and documentation of fossils, organization of ancestral trees, and description of large-scale evolutionary patterns. By using a combination of fieldwork, evolutionary theory, and computational analysis, Brusatte has described the origin, evolutionary history, and extinction of dinosaurs and close relatives during the Triassic Period (~250-200 million years ago) and the diversification of mammals after the extinction of the dinosaurs (66 million years ago). Similarly, by using fossils to decode how living organisms looked and behaved, Brusatte has gathered information about fluctuating climates and other environmental perturbations that affect the diversity of living organisms.

The study of major transitions in evolution—such as the asteroid impact at the end of the Cretaceous Period, which resulted in the infamous mass extinction of all dinosaurs—is now more important to understand than ever before. Past evolutionary transitions are analogous to some of the sudden changes in climate occurring today, and may hold the key to planning for, and mitigating, current environmental changes. Brusatte, a leading expert on theropods—a group that includes T. rex, Velociraptor, Allosaurus, and birds—has described several new species in this group. He has also written a New York Times Bestselling book, ‘The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs’ and currently serves as the paleontology consultant for the upcoming 2022 science fiction adventure film, Jurassic World III.

“I’m incredibly honored to receive a Blavatnik Award. I’ve been so fortunate to be able to follow my passion in studying dinosaurs and evolution. Dinosaurs are a gateway into science for so many children, and I treasure the opportunities I have to spread my enthusiasm to the next generation. Fossils tell us how real animals and ecosystems have responded to real moments of environmental change over time—knowledge that has never been more important.”

Key Publications:

  1. S.L. Brusatte, A. Averianov, H.D. Sues, A. Muir, I.B. Butler. New Tyrannosaur from the Mid-Cretaceous of Uzbekistan Clarifies Evolution of Giant Body Sizes and Advanced Senses in Tyrant Dinosaurs. PNAS, 2016.

  2. S.L. Brusatte, G.T. Lloyd, S.C. Wang, M.A. Norell. Gradual Assembly of Avian Body Plan Culminated in Rapid Rates of Evolution Across the Dinosaur-bird Transition. Curr. Biol., 2014.

  3. S.L. Brusatte, R.J. Butler, A. Prieto-Márquez, M.A. Norrell.Dinosaur Morphological Diversity and the End-Cretaceous Extinction. Nat Commun, 2012.

  4. S.L. Brusatte, M.J. Benton, M. Ruta, G.T. Lloyd. Superiority, Competition, and Opportunism in the Evolutionary Radiation of Dinosaurs. Science, 2008.

Other Honors:

2019Tam Dalyell Prize for Excellence in Engaging the Public with Science, University of Edinburgh
2019Clough Memorial Award, Edinburgh Geological Society
2018Philip Leverhulme Prize
2017Royal Society of Edinburgh Makdougall Brisbane Medal
2017University of Edinburgh, College of Science and Engineering, Head of College Prize for Outreach
2017Palaeontological Association Hodson Award
2016Elected to the Royal Society of Edinburgh’s Young Academy of Scotland

 

In the Media:

Brusatte, S. 2018. The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs. William Morrow (Harper Collins), New York

Brusatte’s work has been covered extensively by the popular press (print, online, radio, television) in the UK and the USA, as well as internationally. The most important media are listed here: https://sites.google.com/site/brusatte/home/outreach

Website