Marsh Palaeontology Award

The Marsh Award for Palaeontology aims to recognise  individuals (or groups of individuals) based in the UK who have made a significant contribution to the field of palaeontology, yet whose efforts have not necessarily been widely recognised to date.

The Award celebrates those who have contributed significant work to the field, through popular publications, websites, collecting and donating natural history collections to museums, superb preparation or conservation of specimens in public collections, as well as artistic or technical innovations. Those nominated for the Award can be of either amateur or professional status.

Nominations for the Award can be made via Natural History Museum’s website and the final winners are put forward to the MCT for approval.


Dr David Penney 2019

Dr Penney has had a life-long interest in natural history and dinosaurs. Having completed his BSc in Zoology, he was encouraged to change his initial PhD focus from parasite immunology to fossil spiders preserved in Dominican Amber. He was awarded a PhD in 1999 and just 3 years ago was awarded a higher doctorate from the University of Manchester, based on almost 25 years of research.

Dr Penney is a leading world-expert in his field, primarily on amber palaeobiology and fossil and extinct spiders. His research has included demonstrating the extinction resistance of spiders, the co-radiation of spiders and their insect prey and he has been at the forefront of applying computed tomography and the application of next generation DNA sequencing techniques to amber fossils.

In 2008, he set up Siri Scientific Press, a specialist publisher of palaeontology and entomology books with the aim of publishing books at the interface of academia and general public interest. Dr Penney has now published over 40 titles, half of which are devoted to palaeontology, and will no doubt be the inspiration for professional palaeontologists of the future. He is passionate about communicating his knowledge with the public, giving numerous talks aimed at a general, broad audience of all ages.

Previous Winners

Dr Christopher Duffin

Chris discovered a passion for fossils as a child, searching the Cornbrash for specimens on the margins of the Cotswolds. After completing a degree in Geology, he completed research in Vertebrate Palaeontology at University College London, before becoming a Biology teacher and continuing a steady research output. His study of the vertebrate fauna of the Late Triassic Rhaetic Bone Bed expanded greatly and his interests have also embraced Carbiniferous, Permian, Jurassic and Cretaceous faunas.

In over 200 publications, he has described over 50 new species and genera and he has co-authored the Handbook of Paleoichthyology volume on Palaeozois sharks’ teeth. Chris’ interest in the history of geology has led to numerous papers and four books on the historical links between geology, fossils and medicine and a second PhD in the history of medicine from Kingston University. He has diversified his interests to the fascinating topics surrounding the relationships between fossils and folklore and, in doing so, has bridged the gap between palaeontology, history and sociology.

As well as his academic work, Chris is deeply committed to outreach in most of its forms, from writing popular articles on geology, to attending fossil roadshows, to giving night classes. Over the years, he has gained a reputation as an entertaining guest lecturer at almost all the geological and natural history groups in the southeast of England.

David Ward

David is well known to the Earth Sciences Department at the Natural History Museum as a Scientific Associate, with expertise in fossil sharks. However, he should also be noted for his extensive outreach work in his fossil identification workshop which uses specimens from Abbey Wood. For the last 12 years, David has lead and managed the workshop at the annual Lyme Regis Fossil Festival, preparing equipment, handouts, labels and coaching teams of volunteers. He has run similar workshops in London on the site of the Lessness Shell Bed in Abbey Wood, which is opened each year by the Tertiary Research Group David has been involved with since his student days.

David also gives his time freely to advise the public on fossil sharks and other aspects of fossils. His book, An Illustrated Guide to the British Middle Eocene Vertebrates, was re-published in 2016 and he was the co-author of the immensely useful DK Fossils Handbook. During his time at the Natural History Museum he has donated thousands of specimens and has bequeathed his personal collection of around 1 million fossil shark and ray specimens to the Museum. David is skilled at building up relations with commercial dealers which has been of great benefit to the palaeontology community and he has been a cornerstone on the recent revival in interest in fossil sharks.

Bill Blows

Bill Blows has been collecting fossil vertebrate material from the Early Cretaceous Wealden sediments of southern England for more than three decades. In this time, he has recovered many scientifically significant specimens, all of which have been donated to the Natural History Museum and worked on by numerous national and international colleagues.

Not only has Bill been active in specimen discovery and collection, he has also become a noted international authority on ankylosaurian dinosaurs, having completed his part-time PhD. He has published around 10 papers on ankylosaur taxonomy, biostratigraphy and evolution in a variety of peer-reviewed international journals and edited volumes, several of which are highly cited. Bill has also written popular accounts of his work and delved into some of the historical aspects of dinosaur studies on the Isle of Wight during the 1800s.

Bill has carried out all of his paleontological work in a purely ‘amateur’ capacity, at the same time as working full-time as a healthcare professional and now an academic who lectures on nursing at City University. He recently began volunteering his time at the Natural History Museum in order to help with the curation of material he has donated and to continue his research work on these specimens

Dean Lomax

Dean has been working in the field of palaeontology in a voluntary capacity for a number of years and has made a significant contribution to the field. He has published scientific peer-reviewed papers in well-respected journals, the majority of which represent studies of diverse remains that are completely new to science. His first book, Fossils of the Whitby Coast, was published in 2011 and is an important resource for both serious collectors and interested amateurs. Dean is also the lead author of Dinosaurs of the British Isles, a comprehensive and beautifully illustrated guide.

Perhaps Dean’s most important discovery was a new species of ichthyosaur which he first examined in 2008. He was instrumental in realising the significance of Doncaster Museum’s palaeontology collection and raising funds to review and revitalise the collection. His work has led to nine scientific articles being published about the collection and the discovery of a new fossil site of exceptional preservation in Doncaster. Dean engages with the public, giving talks to museums and schools, as well as appearing in the media, including on the television programme ‘Dinosaur Britain’ which brought palaeontology back to prime-time.

Dean is now recognised as a leading authority on ichthyosaurs in the UK and you can read more about his work at his personal website,

John Quayle

John has been making a substantial contribution to the study and understanding of crustacean diversity since the 1970s, inspiring others to follow his example and donating his collections to museums to make them available to the general public. As a member of the Tertiary Research Group, John has increased the number of known specimens of rare crab species, increasing the number of crustaceans known from Barton on the Isle of Wight from 1 to 16.

In 1976, John began a long-term collaborative effort to find and describe fossil crabs, with the Natural History Museum. He has recently donated his entire collection, over 4,000 specimens, to a number of museums and is still working on new scientific papers and talking to people about crustaceans with the same enthusiasm.

Peter Austen

Peter, in partnership with his wife Joyce, has been an outstanding amateur palaeontologist since the mid-1980s, collecting and publishing scientific papers which have substantially enhances knowledge of Carboniferous plants, Arthropods and Wealden plants. His collecting at Writhlington Colliery in the Somerset Coalfield resulted on the discovery of over 1,000 new arthropod specimens and a number of fossil plants which were donated to the National Museum of Wales and Kew Gardens. Peter was influential in the establishment of a geological nature reserve at Writhlington to preserve the fossil heritage of the site.

Peter and Joyce have contributed to fieldwork on the Cretaceous Wealden of Surrey and Sussex, making them the focus of the amateur and professional community working on the Wealden of Weald Basin. Their macro plant fossil collections from across the region has been core to the recently published Wealden Fossil Field Guide. Peter is an ambassador for the fossil collecting community and has worked tirelessly to represent the interests of collectors, raise awareness of the need for conservation of sites and has worked directly with landowners to ensure access to sites for collectors, groups and museums.

Robert Baron Chandler

Robert has dedicated thirty years to researching the ammonite faunas of the Inferior Oolite Formation of Dorset and Somerset, bringing other interested parties together through his ‘Wessex Cephalopod Club’. He has formed beneficial relationships with landowners in the region, which has allowed him to excavate record and study these sites of historical interest and significance and amass a collection of accurately stratigraphically localised ammonites that exists nowhere else.

Robert has published 33 papers and built upon the work of S.S. Buckman who first recognised that a succession of ammonites could be used to correlate the many quarries that dotted the 19th Century Dorset and Somerset landscape. As a result of his work, Robert has been invited to act as a consultant to Natural England, the Natural History Museum and Dorset County Council. He has led a number of field trips to the Dorset sites he has studied, particularly for the Geologist’s Association national and regional groups.

Dr Steven Sweetman

Steven Sweetman is a dedicated researcher of palaeontology. He has a degree in Natural Science from Oxford (1976) and returned to his home on the Isle of Wight in 2001 to start a business and resume the fossil collecting he started as a child. He received his PhD in Vertebrate Palaeontology aged 53 and now devotes his time and research to unravelling Mesozoic vertebrate history particularly the small vertebrates which lived alongside dinosaurs and reveal much about the environmental conditions and biodiversity on the Isle of Wight during the Early Cretaceous period.

Steve has contributed to a number of scientific journals and promotes palaeontology through the media, leads guided palaeontological tours on the Isle of Wight, gives talks to local societies and regularly updates his page on the Isle of Wight Farm and Country Holidays website. He has published two field guides to the Isle of Wight and his work has opened a window to the virtually unknown Wealden world.

Stan Wood

Stan has contributed more than any other person to the discovery and collection of Palaeozoic vertebrate, arthropod and plant fossils in the United Kingdom over the last 40 years. He has achieved all this through hard work, instinct, research, persistence and forming important relationships with relevant people in the field. Stan has found whole new sites that have yielded not only fossils, but important contextual information for the Carboniferous Period, between 300-350 million years ago.

Stan’s material has enhanced important collections such as the National Museums of Scotland, the Hunterian Museum and the Natural History Museum. He has provided research material for three generations of scientists, particularly young palaeontologists at the beginning of their careers who have been able to study new fossils that change the way the history of life on Earth is thought of.

Mr J Collins

Mr Collins is an amateur palaeontologist whose life-long dedication has led to his recognition as a world expert on fossil crabs and barnacles, particularly those from Britain. His contribution to palaeontology over 45 years is quite outstanding and is equal to, or better than, many professional palaeontologists.

Mr Collins has been a Scientific Associate in the Palaeontology department at the Natural History Museum for the past 10 years since his retirement. He has given freely of his time and expertise to identify specimens and help with curation.