Morgan Churchill examines fragments of the Neophoca palatina holotype as we begin to reassemble it in the OU paleontology lab.
Morgan flew out about two weeks ago, and successfully completed all of the goals of his visit - he spent about tree weeks out of the trip in Australia and north island collections, measuring modern otariids. He was rather surprised at the rarity of NZ sea lion specimens in NZ museum collections; in the US we have programs where virtually every reported pinniped and cetacean stranding is collected for osteological collections, as a direct consequence of taking necropsies. My impression is that such a comprehensive system is not in place here. Regardless of a small sample size for Phocarctos (NZ sea lion), Morgan's data set already has some intriguing results.
About a week before Morgan flew back to the US, our newest member of the lab flew to Dunedin to begin his Ph.D. with Ewan. Josh is a former student of Robin O'Keefe, who works predominantly on marine reptiles at Marshall University in West Virginia; Josh is an Illinois native, and did his master's thesis at Marshall on functional morphology and locomotion in basilosaurids and other cetaceans. He's the second student to have started after me (Tsai being the first). Josh's dissertation will focus on describing numerous new kekenodontid fossils from the Kokoamu Greensand and Otekaike Limestone - possible Oligocene relict archaeocetes (which previously includes only two described fossil from New Zealand, Kekenodon onamata, and "Squalodon" gambierensis). So, welcome Josh! It is damned nice to have another American in the office, and it's nice to have a drinking buddy now.
A terrible photo of Josh Corrie at Sandfly Bay, taking photos of NZ sea lions (just out of camera shot). It's actually a fine photo (my wife took it), but none of the photos from the Otago Peninsula (or from fieldwork last week) show anything but his back, since I was typically hiking slow and taking too many photos.