Kieran Shepherd

 

Kieran Shepherd

Curator of Palaeobiology, Canadian Museum of Nature

Piecing together the fossilized remains of animals and the details of their lives and environments, millions of years ago, is a challenge that, for me, never gets old.

 
 
 

Meet the expert

 

Kieran Shepherd is Curator of the Palaeobiology collection at the Canadian Museum of Nature. He has spent the last 25 years on a mission: to study and curate amazing kinds of ancient life and how they survived on the land mass now known as Canada.

What is a curator and why is it important? A museum curator studies and cares for the scientific specimens that researchers examine and use in their studies. Kieran’s job is to manage this enormous collection of Canadian fossils—a nationally and scientifically significant collection that reflects the incredible diversity of past life. He is the guy that has the job we all dream about having when we are kids. He gets to take care of dinosaurs, mammoths and fossils of other amazing animals.

For Expedition Arctic, Kieran was on a mission to explore Baffin Island and prospect for dinosaurs and other ancient fossils. Southern Baffin Island has rarely been prospected before so Kieran was on an exploratory mission to find out what might be there.

 
 

My mission

This video explains the mission I was on for the expedition. Was I able to find fossils in areas of the Arctic where none had been found before?

 
A reconstruction of the prehistoric mammal Puijila darwini's skeleton.

Puijila darwini

Puijila darwini (its scientific name) represents a “missing link”—a branch on an evolutionary tree—between an ancestor that walked on land and today's sea-going seals and their relatives. Most people think that all life evolved out of the sea onto land. Puijila darwini proves them wrong as it is an example of evolution that went from land to the sea. Image: A reconstruction of Puijila darwini.

View Puijila darwini

 

Hadrosaur

It may not seem like it now, but 65 million years ago dinosaurs lived and roamed the Canadian Arctic during a time period known as the Cretaceous period. Image: A jaw bone from a juvenile Hadrosaur

View Hadrosaur

A young Hadrosaur's jaw bone.
 

My trip

See how my exploratory mission to Baffin Island turned out.

 
A fossilized sea sponge called Nunavutospongia irregulara.

Nunavutospongia irregulara

Today, the Arctic is a cold and snowy region during the winter and warm during the summer.  Millions of years ago, Canada’s Arctic was a very different place.  The Arctic was a hot, tropical and humid place with warm waters and many different animals that lived in its warm waters. Image: A fossilized sponge called Nunavutospongia irregulara.

View Nunavutospongia irregulara

 

Tiktaalik roseae

During a time in Earth’s history known as the Devonian period, which occurred from 358 to 419 million years ago, land masses that currently make up the Arctic were located just south of the equator. This was due to continental drifting, resulting in a tropical climate. Image: The fossilized remains of Tiktaalik roseae.

View Tiktaalik roseae

The fossilized remains of the transitional animal Tiktaalik roseae.
 

My methods

This is an explanation of some the research methods I use when I am in the field and when I am back at the museum.

 

Interested in a career in Palaeontology? Watch this video.

 

Kieran Shepherd’s blog posts

 

Lady Franklin Island – Sunday, August 5

Wow, what a cool day to look at geology. We took the Zodiacs out around Lady Franklin Island. The island is in the Davis Strait and is uninhabited by humans, but looks like a great place to be a polar bear! We saw several on the island and it certainly was the highlight of my [...]

Sunneshine Fiord – Monday, August 6

Always interesting to put boots on the ground and explore an area that I have never been to before. Today I spent several hours prospecting Sunneshine Fiord. My geologic map notes that the rock here is Precambrian and far too old to find fossils. My other map notes the possibility of Quaternary deposits but there [...]

 

Coronation Fiord – Tuesday, August 7

Prior to this trip, I had read that the current geology maps of Baffin Island were produced in the 1950s and 1960s using helicopter mapping techniques (now that would have been a very cool project!), so I was wondering: how accurate are these old maps?  From what I have experienced during the last couple of [...]

On the ship – Wednesday, August 8

We are ship-based for a couple of days. When I was not involved in activities, which kept me busy for most of the day, I spent quiet moments reading a few articles about Arctic dinosaurs that have been gathering dust in my pack. The idea of dinosaurs in the Arctic is so captivating, or at [...]