Jason Loxton: Passionate about Paleontology

1375200433791Originally an arts student, Jason Loxton can’t pinpoint the moment that turned him toward a career in paleontology. Instead, he says the pivotal career shift was influenced by a multitude of different experiences; from discovering fossils while working in forestry, to spending summers hunting fossils on Vancouver Island, Jason’s passion for the field of paleontology grew with each new experience.

“I started off doing history and philosophy of science, but got bitten by the paleo bug along the way. It started off as just recreational collecting on weekends, which lead to a summer working as a interpreter with a fossil museum on Vancouver Island, and a position on the executive of the Vancouver Paleontological Society, a grad course in paleo during my final year of my BA, and a summer working in the field with the Geological Survey of Canada. That led to a PhD program, and the rest is history,” says Jason.

Jason has collected, sorted, and identified hundreds of thousands of specimens throughout his PhD, while many paleontologists only have one or two specimens to work with. He did this in an attempt to anticipate and answer questions that future paleontologists may ask, and to save them the trouble of trekking to the Yukon to find material to answer those questions, as he has done.

For the past four years, Jason has been working as a Laboratory Technologist at CBU where he teaches a combination of geology labs and lectures. While this position doesn’t require research, Jason spends his time between classes with his holed up with his microscope, rocks, and scientific podcasts anyway.

His current research looks at a mass extinction event that took place about 440 million years ago at the end of the Ordovician period. Jason studies a group of zooplankton called graptolites. Although they may look boring, because there were so many of them, because they had global distribution, and because they evolved rapidly, he says we can use them as tools to study all sorts of big questions about both this specific extinction and also big processes in evolution and ecological change.

Jason is the principal organizer of the 2016 Canadian Paleontological Conference (CPC) being held in Sydney, August 26-28. He says, “I strongly believe that it is vital that paleontologists in Canada have a place to meet, build community, and share research and ideas. As specialists, we all go to different conferences most of the time. The dinosaur guys go to dinosaur conferences, the plant guys to plant conferences, etc. The CPC is a place where Canadian paleontologists across all the subdisciplines can come together to discuss the big issues affecting science in our country.”