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Professor Sarah Gabbott

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Media and Outreach

Public understanding of science and Impact:

I have a passion for widening the reach of my research to those that would not normally access it through the usual academic outputs. I have enjoyed undertaking activities and talks which enable science to be accessed by the general public, and in particular younger adults and children, in an exciting and understandable way. Selected examples of this activity since 2008 include:

Exhibitions for the general public:

I successfully bid to the Royal Society to exhibit our research (with Mark Purnell and Rob Sansom) on how decay experiments can be used to better understand the fossil record of soft-bodied early vertebrates. With funding from the University, The Palaeontological Association, and The Natural Environment Research Council this culminated in an interactive exhibit  ‘Rotten fish and fossils: resolving the riddle of our earliest vertebrate ancestors’ which we have exhibited across the UK at these events:

  • the prestigious Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition (2011) with over 13,700 visitors.
  • UK Young Scientists and Engineers Fairs, Big Bang 2012 (London) and Big Bang 2013 (Birmingham): designed to raise awareness and dispel myths about STEM and careers within STEM. More than 115,000 young people, their teachers and parents attended
  • Cheltenham Science Fair (2012); >10,000 visitors
  • University Week at the Natural History Museum (2014)
  • Highcross Shopping Centre, Leicester (2014)

These exhibitions have had a significant positive impact (for example, 60% of students after visiting Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition 2011 were more interested in science and science-based careers).

Media coverage of my research:

I strive to get my research “out there” as I am very keen to engender a sense of curiosity about our world and in particular enthuse and inform children and young adults. To do this I write press releases, and undertake interviews with journalists (Newspapers, magazines, bloggers and TV and radio).

To list some recent examples:

  • The paper on Nidelric Pugio published in Scientific Reports (birds-nest-like fossil from Chengjiang) featured in Local and National Newspapers, and I recorded a feature on BBC CBBC News-round (2014). http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/30414603
  • The “Atlas of Decay” paper published in Palaeontology received wide publicity including an editorial in Smithsonian magazine, Lab News and many online science sites (Wired, Science Now, Live Science and NERC Planet Earth Magazine) (2013).
  • The paper on chordate decay published in Nature appeared on the BBC website and in several National and International newspapers (2010).
  • The paper on windiness in the Ordovician, published in Geology was featured as an article in The Guardian National Newspaper and appeared in several online Science webpages (2010).
  • I was invited by The Conversation to write an editorial on the Jehol exceptional preservation (2014).

Broadcasting experience

I have been an expert presenter on two Channel 4 TV programmes:

  • Filming The Big Monster Dig
    Filming The Big Monster Dig
    I was one of three experts playing a leading role on the TV show for children and young people “Dinosaur Detectives” which followed a format similar to “The Time Team” (audience  2.2 million). It has been repeated since on Channel 4, Sky and other networks across the world. (2002)
  • Owing to the success of “Dinosaur Detectives” Channel 4 commissioned a 7 part series “The Big Monster Dig” using the same format covering a wide-range of palaeontological stories from dinosaur eggs in the Pyrenees to giant fish in Peterborough. Typical audiences were 1.4 million in the UK and this programme was broadcast worldwide (e.g. USA, Australia, India). This series was the first of its kind in palaeontology and it has done much to raise awareness of geology and palaeontology and the importance of this science to understanding the world around us (2003-2007).

On location filming at Leicester Fish Market
On location filming at Leicester Fish Market
You can see the episodes on 4 on demand (they made us wear the hats!): http://www.channel4.com/programmes/the-big-monster-dig

This TV work led to publicity across a wide spectrum of National Newspapers and magazines including a The TV and Radio Times, The Times Higher Education Supplement, the Guardian, the Mail, the Express and even Grazia.

Academic Distinctions and prizes

  • Invited Scientific Editor for the Journal Palaeontology. (2015)
  • Invited Convener for symposium on ‘Reading the record of shales: archives of past process, climate and life’. International Geological Congress, Cape Town (2016)
  • Co-convener for symposium on Experimental Taphonomy, International Palaeontogical Congress, Argentina. (2014)
  • Invited Chair at Symposium, International Palaeontogical Congress, Argentina. (2014)
  • Shortlisted for the Times Higher Awards Research Project of the Year. “The problem of vertebrate origins – comparative taphonomy and gaps in the fossil record” on which I was Principal Investigator. (2011)
  • Invited Chair of Symposium on Taphonomy, International Palaeontogical Congress, London. (2010)
  • Invited co-convenor and scientific member of the organizing committee for Discovery of the Burgess Shale: an international conference on the Cambrian explosion in Banff, Canada. (2009)
  • Invited speaker at Association for Science Education's Annual Meeting (attended by 3000 science teachers) to showcase Palaeontology to A’ level teachers. Subsequently, aspects of my presentation were in articles in the Times Higher Education Supplement and Teaching Earth Science Magazine. (2005)
  • Council Member of the Palaeontological Association (2001-2004)
  • Organising committee for the 47th Annual Paleontological Association Conference (Leicester). (2003)
  • The President’s Award of the Geological Society of London which is given each year to “a young geoscientist of outstanding talent and promise”. (1998)
  • Palaeontological Association prize for the best talk at the Annual Conference given by a researcher below the age of 30. (1996)



  • Director of Learning and Teaching for the Geology Department (2012-2015)
  • Course Director for Geology with Palaeobiology BSc and MGeol. degrees (2014-current)
  • Course Director for Geography with Geology BSc and MGeol. degrees (2014-current)
  • Athena Swan Committee (2011-2014)
  • Admissions Tutor Department of Geology (2005-2008)
  • Board of Studies for the Geography with Geology BSc. (2000-2007)
  • Course Director for the Geology with Palaeobiology BSc and MGeol. degree programmes. During this period I prepared the data and documentation required for successful Accreditation of these degrees (Geological Society of London). (2003-2004)
  • Schools Liaison Tutor (2000-2004)

College & University:

  • College of Science and Engineering Academic Committee (2012-current)
  • College of Science and Engineering representative on Academic Policy Committee (2014 to current)
  • Panel Member for Department of Physics Periodic Development Review (2015)
  • Member of Course Approval Panel for new degrees (2012-2013)

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