by Ronny M. Leder
Editor’s note: Ronny is the new post-doctoral fellow on the project. He is an expert on fossil sharks and will be coordinating the interface of the FOSSIL on-line gallery as it is coordinated with the 25 million natural history specimens in the Cloud (including a few million fossils) hosted by the IDIgBio project. In addition to his interest in digital paleontology, Ronny has extensive experience working with the amateur community.
For almost ten years, I was a member of the paleontological staff under the guidance of Prof. Dr. Arnold Müller at the University of Leipzig–one of the most historic and leading universities in Germany. The fieldwork of that team focused on places where marine and brackish sediments covered the middle German landscape during the Eocene-Miocene. My research focused primarily on sharks; however, I also studied broader fish faunas, mollusks and coral reef communities and was the sole member of the team to work with fossil plants. The Eocene-Miocene flora of Germany is pretty well comparable to the extant Florida flora of today (and the past), making Florida an excellent place to study such an ecosystem. I also studied sinkholes, a feature not unknown to paleontologists working in Florida.
In recent years, I have focused on developing new techniques for the classification of fossil shark teeth by comparing their morphometric attributes with a dataset of several thousand teeth of their modern descendants. As part of this study, I created a novel automatic morphometric analysis program based on simple 2D images. This automated program greatly reduces subjectivity in the classification process. This program is also able to classify other objects like skulls, bones or shales. It is adaptable to a great spectrum of morphologies. Modifying that analysis tool for other objects and integrating it with myFossil and iDigBio will be part of my current activities.
My research interests have both shaped and been shaped by my teaching experiences. I have extensive experience working with Bachelor and Masters students in Geology and Paleontology. Over the past ten years, I have taught a variety of courses in Paleozoology, general Geology and Paleobotany at the Institute of Geophysics and Geology of the University of Leipzig. Furthermore, I take pride in having created a major exhibition at the Museum der Westlausitz (MWL), Kamenz, one of the leading regional Natural History Museums in Middle Germany, where I worked as the Collection Manager and Administrative Scientist in the fields of general paleontology and paleobotany. The exhibition, “A Tropical Paradise Lusatica? – Climate Change in Tertiary Times” transported thousands of visitors to the time of the Miocene, when Germany’s flora and fauna looked just like those in Florida . The exhibition was based on the research I conducted on the Miocene flora of the world famous Wiesa-Thonberg clay deposit and the Tetta-Buchholz clay deposit.
Some of my most satisfying experiences as a museum scientist have come from helping visitors of all ages grasp difficult concepts through a combination of traditional personal interaction, class activities and group discussion—plus modern tools like interactive 3D projections. I believe that a good scientist should always act as ambassador to the public. I am proud of my public outreach activities to date and very eager to pursue such activities with the FOSSIL Project and iDigBio.
For further reading:
Leder, R., M. (2015). Fossile Reste von Selachiern und Chimaeren aus dem Muschelschluff und Phosphoritknollenhorizont von Zwenkau bei Leipzig. In Festband Prof. Dr. Arnold Müller– Geologica Saxonica – Journal of Central European Geology, 61 (1): 73-90. ISSN 1617-8467, ISBN 978-3-910006-54- 6. http://www.senckenberg.de/root/index.php?page_id=8059
Leder, R. M., Müller, A., Henninger, M. & Bach, F. (2014). Die Silberberg-Formation im Profil von Atzendorf bei Stassfurt (Egelner Nordmulde, Sachsen-Anhalt, Deutschland).- Hall. Jb. Geowiss., 36: 73-134. P-ISSN 1432-3702, E-ISSN 2196-3495, http://public.bibliothek.uni-halle.de/index.php/hjg/article/view/919
Leder, R., M., Henniger, M., & Müller, A. (2011). Paläogene Fossilien aus einer Karstschlotte im Unteren Muschelkalk von Karsdorf an der Unstrut (Sachsen-Anhalt, Burgenlandkreis), ZDGG, Band 162, Heft 3, Schweitzerbart’sche Verlagsbuchhandlung (Nägele u. Obermiller), Stuttgart, 317-332, ISSN 1860-1804