Dean is a Visiting Scientist in the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences (SEES) at The University of Manchester. As part of the affiliation, Dean mentors students as a specialist advisor.
Dean first began scientific research in 2008, with his first peer-reviewed publication in 2010. His research has included visiting many collections across the world, which has resulted with fossils brought to the attention of the scientific community. His research interests are broad, as is evident from his publications to date. However, Dean is an internationally recognised leading expert on Early Jurassic ichthyosaurs (marine reptiles that superficially resemble dolphins), especially the genus Ichthyosaurus. Most of his academic research has been as lead author and has focused on this topic. Such projects have led to research on some fantastic fossils, which has resulted in the description of new species, the first occurrence of specimens in the fossil record, and the rediscovery of material hidden in collections. Dean's research has been covered extensively by the media, appearing in the likes of National Geographic, BBC, The Guardian, IFLScience and much more. To help disseminate his research, Dean gives various palaeontology lectures at numerous institutions, at professional conferences, and to the general public. The majority of his research and studies are self-funded.
Highlights (selected examples)
Some highlights regarding Dean’s studies on ichthyosaurs includes: one of the largest animals to ever live; a new genus and species of ichthyosaur from Nottinghamshire, UK, Wahlisaurus massarae, which Dean named in honour of two colleagues; description of two new species, Ichthyosaurus larkini and I. somersetensis, based on fossils collected almost 200 years ago; discovery of a new species based on a specimen hidden in a museum collection and misidentified as a plaster cast (Ichthyosaurus anningae); the largest example of Ichthyosaurus, which also contained an embryo; description of an ichthyosaur pregnant with octuplets.
Examples of his research on other fossil groups includes: the world’s longest death track, a 9.7 m long trackway created by a 150 million-year-old horseshoe crab with the animal preserved at the end; combined examination of six of the original Archaeopteryx specimens, along with the original feather and Compsognathus; discovering, describing and reporting a new fossil location in Doncaster, which included fossils such as horseshoe crabs and a shark egg case never before recorded; the most complete specimen of the elasmosaurid plesiosaur Zarafasaura oceanis from Africa; description of an 8.5 m drag mark created by a dead, floating ammonite. These are just a few select examples of Dean's academic studies, but it provides you with an idea of the variety of research that he is involved in.
Dean undertakes a variety of palaeontological fieldwork projects and expeditions. Fieldwork has taken him across the world, travelling to many unusual and often relatively remote locations. Much of Dean’s time, however, has been spent at various fossil sites in the UK, collecting and recording scientifically important specimens. Work in Europe has primarily been spent in Germany and France. For example, in 2011, Dean was the manager and palaeontologist of a rare fossil site. This site, called Menat, in Central France, is one of very few exceptionally preserved Palaeocene-aged Lagerstätten (sites of exceptional preservation). This entailed the creation of a scientific reference collection of fossils and management of visiting groups from France, Germany, and England. Dean has spent many months in the American West, especially in the state of Wyoming but also in Montana, Colorado, Utah and Florida. Such fieldwork has included the excavation and research of numerous dinosaur (and other fossil) sites. This has also involved the re-excavation of historical locations, including the original site of the large, Late Jurassic pliosaur Megalneusaurus rex. These are just a few examples, but it gives you an insight into some of the fieldwork projects that Dean is involved in. To see some photographs of fieldwork click here.
Professional Associations & Affiliations
Visiting Scientist at The University of Manchester, UK.
Patron for UKAFH (UK Association of Fossil Hunters), UK.
Member of the Palaeontographical Society, UK.
Member of the Geological Curators Group, UK.
Member of the Palaeontological Association, UK.
Member of the Western Interior Paleontological Society, USA.
Resident palaeontologist for Yorkshire Wildlife Park, UK.
Research Associate, Big Horn Basin Foundation (Wyoming Dinosaur Center), WY, USA.
Research Associate, Rochester Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology, Rochester, NY. USA.