Science journal honours paleontology professor

Professor Robert Reisz holding fossil skull.
Thursday, January 9, 2014 - 11:53am
Gareth Trickey

Students and colleagues, past and present, have paid tribute to the ongoing work of U of T Mississauga professor Robert Reisz in a special edition of paleontology journal Comptes Rendus Palevol.

The academic tribute, known as a festschrift, features an editorial chronicling Reisz’s contribution to the field of paleontology as well as 11 research papers written by former students.

To mark the occasion, Reisz was also granted the honour of having three newly discovered extinct species of vertebrate named after him.

While festschrifts traditionally coincide with an academic’s retirement, Reisz is quick to point out this edition was compiled to mark his 65th birthday.

“I have absolutely no intention of retiring any time soon,” Reisz said.

“Most scientists tend to slow down at this point in their careers but I seem to be doing the opposite.

“I’m what you would call a late, late bloomer.”

Reisz is considered a leader in the study of vertebrate paleontology.

In the past 40 years, he has published more than 155 papers, presented at more than 90 scientific meetings and has been cited some 3,020 times.

Reisz body of work includes one of the first cladograms of early amniote phylogeny, research into the use of venom among mammals and new hypotheses about the origin of turtles.

He has also trained and mentored numerous postdoctoral fellows as well as doctoral and masters students since arriving at U of T Mississauga’s Department of Biology in 1975.

But as the Palevol editorial points out, Reisz’s contribution to the world of paleontology is far from over, making the tribute more of “a sign post, rather than a monument” to his career.

“There are two ways scientists leave a legacy,” Reisz said.

“One is through their research and the second is through their students.

“I have been doing this for such a long time now that not only do I have my students, which I call my paleontological children, but I also I have what I call my paleontological grandchildren, students taught by my former students.

“I am flattered and touched by the articles they wrote for me.”