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Re: Joan Wiffen

There is an article about Joan Wiffen in the Hawke's Bay  Today:
"Dinosaur expert was giant in field"
4th July 2009 
"Joan Wiffen studied dinosaurs for more than 30 years and in the process  
became immortalised as a giant in the field of palaeontology by her peers  
worldwide in the scientific  community."



In a message dated 7/1/2009 6:55:39 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time,  
MKIRKALDY@aol.com writes:
Posted for Ralph Molnar.  

Joan  Wiffen passed away on 29 June. Joan was the  primary figure in the 
discovery of  dinosaurs and other Mesozoic  terrestrial vertebrates in New 
Zealand. Thirty some  years ago, in the  1970âs she and her husband, known 
to his 
friends as Pont,  decided to  hunt for vertebrate fossils in North Island. 
They tracked down a map   from a petroleum company that noted âreptilian 
in the Te Hoe Valley.  In  their â50âs, when most of us would be 
contemplating retirement,  they took up  prospecting for reptilian fossils. 
At this 
time,  Cretaceous marine reptiles were  known from New Zealand, but no  
land-living creatures. By 1980, in addition to  fossils of marine  
reptiles, Joan and 
Pont had discovered a single bone of a  dinosaur,  the first from New 
Zealand. Her later work was to reveal evidence of   probably five types of 
dinosaur, as well as of one flying reptile  (pterosaur).  This is set out 
in her 1991 
book âValley of the  Dragonsâ.
Joanâs work is significant in several ways. First, but not least,  in  
illuminating the evolutionary and geological history of the islands  of New 
Zealand. Second, in shedding light on the elusive geological  history of  
Antarctica, the âmother continentâ of New Zealand, from  which New Zealand 
separated 80 million years ago, just before the time  of the dinosaurs Joan 
discovered. Third, in showing what kinds of  dinosaurs lived on islands 
since New  
Zealand was already insular when  these creatures lived. And, fourth, in 
showing what kinds of  dinosaurs lived near the poles, the Southern pole in 
this  case.. Most  dinosaurs are known from countries, such as China, 
Mongolia,   Argentina, and the U.S. that were continental land masses at 
the time  
dinosaurs  lived, and that were tropical or temperate in climate during  
time. So  Joanâs discoveries help to illuminate the dark corners  of the 
dinosaurian world,  and to provide insights into where  these
creatures could and did  survive.
To me, however, Joanâs chief  significance is not  in what she found, but 
what she did with her  discoveries. Without formal  university training, 
taught herself  not only how to extract the fossils  from the recalcitrant 
rocks in  which they were embedded, and which would tax  many formally 
technicians, but also to describe these remains  scientifically, and  
their descriptions in scientific journals.  Regardless of what  kinds of 
expensive education, equipment or expeditions may be   necessary in certain 
circumstances, Joan showed that the interested, logical  and  critical mind 
is the 
single most important factor in success. She  showed that a  person with 
these qualities can make important  contributions to their chosen  field. 
had scientific papers  published not only in New Zealand, but also  
the U.S. and  Brazil and was awarded the Morris K. Skinner award by  the 
Society of  Vertebrate Paleontology for her contributions to the
science.  She will  be long remembered and much missed.  

Ralph Molnar
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