Marsh Palaeontology Award

The Marsh Award for Palaeontology aims to recognise living individuals (or groups of individuals) - based in the UK - who have made a significant contribution to the field of palaeontology. The purpose of the Marsh Award for Palaeontology is to recognise those who have contributed significant work to the field, yet whose efforts have not necessarily been widely recognised to date. Those nominated for the award can be of either amateur or professional status.

The 2013 winner is John Quayle


John has made a substantial contribution to the study and understanding of crustacean diversity, inspiring others to follow in his footsteps and donating his collections to museums in order to make them available to the general public.

John’s career began with the Royal Navy where, as a Diver, he came into contact with living crabs. After following other career paths, he retired at the age of 63 to the Isle of Wight which allowed him to concentrate on collecting Tertiary crustaceans.

John’s involvement in palaeontology dates back to the 1970’s when he joined the Tertiary Research Group. When he was shown a crab claw, the Goniocypoda species, from Barton in the Isle of Wight, having been told it was rare he set about rapidly increasing the number of known specimens. Thanks to John, the specimen is now regarded as being quite common. This success led to his specialism in crustaceans and he went on to increase the number of crustaceans known from Barton from 1 to 16. In 1976, John’s work attracted the attention of renowned fossil crustacean expert, Joe Collins. Together with Sam Morris, Curator of Fossil Arthropoda, at the Natural History Museum, John began a long-term collaborative effort to find and describe fossil crabs, beginning with a paper on Barton.

Jerry Hooker of the Natural History Museum makes reference to the impact of John’s work. He recalls a time when John discovered a Hypsilophodon skeleton, which he “painstakingly prepared and donated to Dinosaur Isle Museum”, as well as the excavations of the bones of “an Anoplotherium skeleton (a strange, extinct, distant camel relative)” which they worked on together. Professor Hooker states: “These bones provided the final clues for my study of the skeleton, which resulted in a totally new interpretation of the animal’s gait and lifestyle”

Recently John has donated his entire collection, of over 4000 specimens, some to Dinosaur Isle, Sandown Isle of Wight, some to Hampshire Museum collection and the majority to the Natural History Museum. He is still working on new scientific papers and talking to people about crustaceans with the same enthusiasm. John’s family, his wife Sylvia and his two children are all avid collectors and his children recall with fondness their family holidays helping their father collect fossils on windswept beaches in the depths of winter. It was only later they realized that most people went on beach holidays during summer!

Pictured above:
Top - John Quayle carrying out excavations at Alum Bay, Isle of White, 1987
Below – John Quayle’s children and avid fossil collectors at Wardens Point, Isle of Sheppey, late 1970s
(Photographs credited to John Quayle)




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