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Interview with Paleontologist Anthony (Tony) J. Martin

Paleontologist Anthony (Tony) J. Martin

Area of Focus: Ichnologist (Study of Trace Fossils)

Institution: Emory University

1. How did you become interested in Paleontology?

I've been keenly interested in natural history since I was a kid, which meant I spent much of my time either reading books about dinosaurs, or outside watching insects and other animals. But then my first college classes in geology really hooked me, especially when I realized how paleontology combines both geology and biology. So I went on to graduate study in geology with an emphasis on paleontology, which sealed the deal.



2. Explain the aspect of Paleontology that you focus on.

I'm an ichnologist, which is someone who studies traces: tracks, burrows, borings, nests, and much more. That also means I look at modern traces, which help me to better understand trace fossils. The trace fossils I've studied include root traces, trilobite burrows, fish trails, insect cocoons, dinosaur burrows and tracks, crustacean burrows, and worm trails, to name a few.



3. What do you do in the course of a day as a Paleontologist?

My day job is as a professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences At Emory University, where I teach mostly geoscience classes to Environmental Science majors. This is great fun, because I have bright, motivated students who keep me learning with them! In between teaching, I write books, research articles, and online content for a website about the Georgia coast. Lately I've been writing books for popular audiences about ichnology, which is work, but also great fun.



4. What was your favorite discovery or field experience?

I have two favorite fossil discoveries! One is being part of the discovery (and naming!) of the only know burrowing dinosaur, Oryctodromeus cybicularis. The second is my naming the oldest fossil crayfish in the Southern Hemisphere, Palaeoechinastacus australanus, which was actually in a museum collection. I can't narrow down my favorite field experiences to just one, so I'll pick three: (1) the Georgia coast, which is one of the world's best natural "laboratories" for seeing modern traces; (2) walking along the coast of Victoria, Australia looking for Cretaceous trace fossils; and (3) searching for and documenting trace fossils in the Late Cretaceous Two Medicine Formation of Montana. I'm very lucky to have had these opportunities!



5. Is there anything else you want to say about being a Paleontologist?

Being a paleontologist, but also one who stays connected to modern life, means I'm never bored. After all, the fossil record gets better every day, thanks to all of the people out there looking for and finding fossils. I also get to travel to paleontologically cool places and meet lots of incredible people in paleontology, who teach me, inspire me, and indulge my curiosity. Again, I am very lucky to have experienced paleontology in so many of its facets, and hope for many more years of learning.


Anthony (Tony) J. Martin studying trace fossils in Montana.

Anthony (Tony) J. Martin studying trace fossils in Montana.



Anthony (Tony) J. Martin's Books!


Dinosaurs Without Bones: Dinosaur Lives Revealed by Their Trace Fossils
Two words: Dinosaur Puke... Just saying... No other author will explain dinosaur puke better than Martin. The book is totally worth it for this alone! Besides for Dino Puke, Dinosaurs Without Bones delves into all the other fossils dinosaurs left behind besides their bones! Dive deep into the interesting story of dinosaur ichnology with THE leading expert, Anthony J. Martin. He is a great guy and a great author!
Available as Kindle, Harcover, or Paperback!




The Evolution Underground: Burrows, Bunkers, and the Marvelous Subterranean World Beneath our Feet
After reading this book, you will never think of evolution again without thinking of the incredible impact burrowing animals made! Anthony Martin is THE expert on fossil traces, it's wonderful to read a book by such an expert who also has a great sense of humor. He takes a potentially dry subject and breathes life into it! If you want to fully understand evolution and how animals survived mass extinctions, you must read this book!
Available as Kindle, Harcover, or Paperback!




Anthony (Tony) J. Martin studying Sauropod trackways.

Anthony (Tony) J. Martin studying Sauropod trackways.



Anthony (Tony) J. Martin in the field teaching a class of future paleontologists

Anthony (Tony) J. Martin in the field teaching a class of future paleontologists



Anthony (Tony) J. Martin giving a lecture on his book Evolution Underground.

Anthony (Tony) J. Martin giving a lecture on his book Evolution Underground.



Anthony (Tony) J. Martin studying trace fossils at Knowledge Creek in Victoria Australia.

Anthony (Tony) J. Martin studying trace fossils at Knowledge Creek in Victoria Australia.






Questions for a paleontologist: Interviews

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