The UK's Nationwide Geology Club for Children

Alex Ayling

Biology Teacher
I have been fascinated by rocks, fossils and natural history for as long as I can remember, so discovering Rockwatch was very exciting for me. I was keen to enter the Rockhound competition and I was lucky enough to win three times, which gave me a fantastic confidence boost, as well as learning a lot about writing geological reports. (One of Alex’s articles on ‘Brilliant Bryozoans’ was printed in our Rockwatch magazine, issue 31, pages 12 and 13. This issue also had a fact card on Bryozoans).  I really enjoyed the many Rockwatch events, ; especially the field trips which I found gave me a big head start next to none Rockwatcher’s when it came to university fieldwork. I studied Palaeobiology and Evolution at Portsmouth University. I experienced some excellent field trips including one to Spain and another to the Laggerstatte of Germany. At Rockwatch events and at university I met some great people, and it was excellent to be around people with similar interests. Whilst at University I was fortunate enough to meet a fellow palaeontologist I had a strong connection with and I am lucky enough to be sharing my life with her. Our house is full of rocks and fossils, even a work bench and professional fossil preparatory equipment is in the downstairs washroom! After university some fellow students and I planned a trip to go dinosaur fossil hunting in the Sahara; however after asking talking to our lecturer Dr. Martill for advice, he decided to come with us, so it became an official University expedition. I bought an old Landrover Defender and prepared it for a grueling trip into the desert. We drove 5000 miles to Morocco's border with Algeria for a month of dinosaur hunting. On returning from our expedition I started working on a project on Silurian Biostratigraphy, in the hopes that it would lead to funding for a PhD, unfortunately the financial climate changed and funding wasn't available. I attempted to continue the project whilst working full time for a charity, however after a few years of working very long hours and studying around my job, I made the tough decision to discontinue the project. The demands of my job had increased and I couldn’t devote sufficient time to the project; I considered the science was suffering and the quality of science must be of a high standard. I am now working as a Biology teacher, using many of the skills I learnt with Rockwatch to inspire and encourage people into enjoying science. I haven't given up on my palaeontological career and I hope that the long summer holidays that come with being a teacher will allow me to pick up other geological projects, trips and expeditions as well as become more involved in Rockwatch trips and events. I still have my Landrover ready and waiting for the next big geological adventure.   Alex Ayling

Author: Helen Connolly

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