The South Australian Museum appoints world leading palaeontologist

05 February 2018

Diego at Buck Quarry 2008.jpg

The South Australian Museum has announced that it is welcoming Associate Professor Diego C. García-Bellido to the role of Senior Researcher (Earth Sciences), a new joint appointment with the University of Adelaide.

“The South Australian Museum is one of Australia’s leading research museums, working in partnership with researchers across the world, and this appointment further cements our place at the forefront of evolutionary research,” said Brian Oldman, Director of the Museum.

“We are delighted to welcome Dr García-Bellido to the Museum. He is a leading palaeontologist and is internationally recognised as being within the top 5% of researchers in his field,” he said.

Dr García-Bellido’s appointment is a joint one with the University of Adelaide, at which he is now an Associate Professor, and follows his recent post at the University of Adelaide as Research Fellow and Australian Research Council Future Fellow, in which he undertook the 4-year research project titled Testing our knowledge on the dawn of animal life: evidence from the fossil record against modern ecological and morphological analogues.

This recent appointment will see Assoc Prof García-Bellido continue with his pioneering research through the excavation of the Cambrian Emu Bay Shale Lagerstätte fossil site on Kangaroo Island and the Ediacaran fossil sites of the Flinders Ranges.

“The Emu Bay Shale site holds great international importance as the most significant fossil site of the Cambrian Period in the Southern Hemisphere,” Dr García-Bellido said.

“It contains more than 50 species of the oldest animals on Earth, which evolved about 540 million years ago, and the fossils still preserve these animals’ skin, muscles, eyes and even their guts with the content of their last meals.

“This research, together with what we’re discovering in the even older deposits of the Flinders Ranges, helps us to understand complex life on Earth when it was just beginning, and the biota, climate and ecological changes that led to rapid evolution of the marine animal groups we find in existence today,” he said.

Dr García-Bellido has played a major role in helping the Museum gather an unrivalled palaeontological collection of global importance, having carried out over 10 years of field excavations in this area and collecting more than 5,000 new specimens. He is also devoting his time to help develop the UNESCO World Heritage nomination for the Flinders Ranges, in conjunction with other research institutions and the state government.

This appointment continues the Museum’s ongoing work in building dynamic partnerships, and aligns with its commitment to work in palaeontology and Ediacaran research.

Dr García-Bellido’s other professional roles include Secretary of Australasian Palaeontologists – AAP (since 2014) and Associate Editor of Alcheringa: an Australian Journal of Palaeontology (since 2016). He holds a number of honorary positions and memberships to professional associations, both within Australia and internationally.