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Please tell us about yourself. How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and interesting career?
I belong to Asansol in West Bengal and did my schooling at Burnpur Riverside School, Burnpur. While pursuing B.Sc. (Hons.) in Geology at Hansraj College at the University of Delhi, I got to know about vertebrate palaeontology, which is the study of vertebrate fossils, and was immediately hooked. The more I researched about the subject, the more I developed a liking for it. I got to know how humans have messed up the environment so badly that we have little idea of how the pre-human environment was. The subject and its applicability to real-life problems enthralled me, and I knew this was the field I wanted to pursue for my career.
What was your career path after Master’s in Geology from Delhi University?
I started looking for a university that would provide me with good exposure — both theoretical as well as practical — and help me transgress the tenets of palaeontology as well as give me unbridled freedom to explore new avenues in my field of interest. My quest led to the University of Southampton’s Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre which offers a master’s in research vertebrate palaeontology programme. I zeroed in on this university because it had all that I was looking for; active international assistance, guaranteed accommodation, enviable infrastructure, experienced faculty, state-of-the-art laboratories, world-class campus, good track record and affordability. Moreover, it is ranked 12th in the Complete University Guide 2016 in the field of geology. I was sure that such an institution will bring out the best in me and help me scale new heights.
Did you get any scholarship?
When I became a Commonwealth Shared Scholar, all my worries regarding finance vanished as the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission and the University of Southampton would jointly meet the full costs. Since I was not under any financial burden, I could be truly happy about going to Southampton for my postgraduation.
How was the experience at Southampton?
I was a bit nervous as it was my first journey abroad. But the University of Southampton turned out to be friendly. Everything was organised so appropriately that I had absolutely no problem settling in.
The university has a very active international assistance service for students coming from different corners of the world. My first day at the University was really memorable. I attended several sessions including bank sessions, how to settle in the U.K. and so on, and they helped me adapt to the U.K. life easily.
Since the university is a member of the Russell Group, extensive cutting-edge research is carried out by the academic staff. I have gained a lot of practical knowledge and in-depth understanding of the subject while interacting and working with such academicians during my programme.
Can you tell us about your research?
Iam currently a researcher at University of Alberta. My research addresses critical questions about Earth-Life interactions in deep-time through the synergistic activities of multi-disciplinary science involving the early Palaeocene fishes from Southern Alberta, Canada. The earth’s palaeontological, geological and biogeochemical history archived in the deep-time rock record provides a major research opportunity to investigate the future of our planet. Fishes provide a unique opportunity to study a group that has survived several mass extinction events and witnessed dramatic geological and climatic changes. The long fossil record also allows for understanding latitudinal gradients in diversity through deep time, and the role of paleobiogeography in shaping the diversity. For my current project, I am mainly analysing the various depositional settings of different sites in Ravenscrag in Saskatchewan, Canada and their microvertebrate fish faunas. The project involves assessing both taxonomic and morphological diversity of fishes in the Palaeocene Ravenscrag Formation. It will expand this data temporally and spatially, as well as incorporating data from comparable Late Cretaceous formations (e.g. Hell Creek Formation in Montana and Paskapoo Formation in Alberta) to test the presence of latitudinal diversity gradients in fishes and to reconstruct their diversity through time.
I have previously focussed on systematics of Late Cretaceous sharks from Central India and also analysed the palaeoenvironment of the Suprabagh Strata in Lower Narmada Valley, India. Lately (in 2016), I have considered the palaeoecology and morphometric analysis of the Late Cretaceous sharks from the English chalks.
I have been part of several field trips, primarily for fossil prospecting and to study the geological settings, stratigraphy, various geomorphological processes shaping the area and structural geology mapping. Some of them include, the lower Himalayas, Deccan traps, the Narmada valley in India, Chalk outcrops in UK, etc.