Rocks, mammals and evolution – connect the dots with paleobiologist, ecologist, and evolutionary biologist Danielle Fraser

Danielle Fraser, research scientist

Featured in Canadian Geographic’s July 2018 celebration of “Canadian Women Trailblazers in Science,” Danielle Fraser began studying biology as an undergraduate 10 years ago. Now, she’s got “a five-year-old’s dream job” as a paleontologist at the museum.

What did you do last summer?

Odds are it wasn’t nearly as exciting as what Danielle Fraser and her Canadian Museum of Nature (CMN)-led team of paleontologists experienced fossil-hunting in Saskatchewan’s Grasslands National Park this year and last.

Dr. Fraser, a research scientist with the CMN, studies the palaeoecology and evolution of Cenozoic-Era (66 million years to present) mammals. She is especially interested in the evolution of hoofed mammals (relatives of modern horses, pigs, sheep and deer) and the conditions that led to the formation of mammal communities as we know them today.
“We hope to paint a picture of how mammals responded to the extinction of the dinosaurs and to the extreme environmental changes that have occurred over the past 66 million years,” notes Fraser in a 2017 blog post.

So imagine the high spirits this summer when her prospecting team began uncovering fossils of 23-million-year-old relatives of modern-day horses, cats and rhinos – starting with a horse astragalus (ankle bone).

How our planet shapes the creatures that inhabit it

Fossils are invaluable to better understand the context of changing present-day biodiversity.

A recent Dallas News article calls fossils shards of time that connect people to one another, to other living things, and to the planet.

“When you think about ongoing climate change, the fossil record is one of the best things to go back to, to try and understand what might happen where we’re headed,” says Fraser.


Speaking at our December 4, 2018  meeting, Dr. Fraser will review the ways in which palaeontology can contribute to conservation science and use relevant examples from her research. She will argue that the impacts of direct human disturbance disturbance to the environment will reach far beyond our lifetimes and that the fossil record is the only source of relevant long term data.

The past is an imperfect mirror of the future. But it’s the best we’ve got.


Don’t miss: Conservation palaeontology: leveraging the past to understand our future

When: Tuesday, December 4, 2018,  7:30 p.m. (preceded by MFNC annual meeting 7:00 p.m.)

Where: Arnprior Curling Club, 15 Galvin Street, Arnprior

Cost: Meetings (and presentations) are free for Club members and $5 for guests.

Guests are welcome at this and every meeting of the Macnamara Club.

Find more information on the Club and its activities at