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Inaugural Wells Palaeontology Lecture

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Health Sciences Lecture Theatre Complex, Lecture Theatre 1.01

Flinders University

Registry Road

Bedford Park, SA 5042

Australia

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Down the Rabbit Hole: Caves and Deserts as Windows onto a Time before History

In this presentation Rod will share his passion for vertebrate palaeontology, the challenges and the excitement of exploration and discovery, the pleasure derived from reading journals and publications of those that went before. It is an interest that has sustained him for more than 50 years. Rod will briefly outline the results of research into Australia’s extinct megafauna and changing climate spanning the last 8 million years. It is a record gleaned from the caves, swamps and deserts of South Australia and the Northern Territory. It is an unfinished story, a story that poses more questions than it answers, questions that draw on many aspects of the natural and physical sciences in a never ending search for answers.


presented by Professor Rod Wells, College of Science & Engineering, Flinders University

Rod Wells grew up in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, which fostered an early interest in natural history. On leaving school he obtained an engineering cadetship with the British Motor Corporation. While at university he developed an interest in cave exploring and was fascinated by the remains of animals and fossils he encountered in caves. He joined the University of Sydney Speleological Society caving expeditions to the Nullarbor Plain in the early 1960s. This led to a career change, he resigned as an engineer and returned to university as a mature age student to indulge his growing interest in evolution and palaeontology. In 1969 he, along with colleague Grant Gartrell, discovered the now World Heritage fossil deposits in the Naracoorte Caves. Rod has been researching these deposits and others throughout South Australia, including Kangaroo Island, Burra and the Lake Eyre Basin, for 40 years. Rod established the discipline of vertebrate palaeontology at Flinders University.

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In 2018 Flinders initiated Australia’s first Bachelor of Science in Palaeontology (commencing 2019). It is also 30 years since the first palaeontology topic was initiated at Flinders and since the Flinders Palaeontology Society was established. So it is quite a pivotal moment in our history. Moreover, next year it will be 50 years since the major fossil discoveries were made at the Naracoorte Caves, which led to their listing as South Australia’s only World Heritage Site in 1994. The Naracoorte discoveries underpinned the research and teaching program at Flinders for the first 25 years of its history. One person stands out for his central role in all of this: Professor Rod Wells. He not only discovered the famous Naracoorte fossil deposit, but initiated palaeontology at Flinders and ran the lab until 2007. The Wells Palaeontology Lecture Series honours Rod’s pivotal contributions to Flinders and to Australian palaeontology.

Date and Time

Location

Health Sciences Lecture Theatre Complex, Lecture Theatre 1.01

Flinders University

Registry Road

Bedford Park, SA 5042

Australia

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