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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,
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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