Public Release:  Old dinosaur research leads to new honor

Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council

This release is also available in French.

A lifelong obsession with fossils led to Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council grantee Robert Reisz discovering the oldest known dinosaur embryos and the oldest known reptile that stands on two legs.

Now, he is being honoured for more than 35 years of research excellence by joining the ranks of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). The society will induct him as a fellow during its annual conference, being held from Feb. 15 to 19 in San Francisco.

"I am humbled that they chose me, and I think it was because my research has had an impact in my field," says Reisz, a paleontologist at the University of Toronto. "I like to look at the very beginnings of major evolutionary events - to that time when mammals and reptiles and birds were just becoming separate from each other. It was an exciting time in history, about 270 million years ago - it was between ice ages, just like the time we are living in now - and I think my work has led to a greater understanding of what happened then."

Reisz earned three degrees in zoology at McGill University during the 1960s and 1970s, culminating in a doctorate in 1975. After spending a year at UCLA, he began research at the University of Toronto under an NSERC grant. He has remained at the university, continually funded by NSERC, ever since.

His research has spanned several countries, including Russia, Germany, the United States and Canada. His most recent discovery - finding 190-million-year-old dinosaur embryos in South Africa in 2005 - is part of a time period that is about 100 million years younger than the one he usually studies.

"I had a special research opportunity through NSERC to pursue this, and never expected it would be that successful. In fact, there will soon be an interpretive centre at the site where we found the embryos - the Golden Gate Highlands National Park in South Africa. It certainly is an honour to be recognized for my work."

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Robert Reisz
Department of Biology
University of Toronto - Erindale College
Tel.: 905-828-5364
E-mail: rreisz@utm.utoronto.ca

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