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My Experience - Melisa Morales Garcia
In August 2016, Melisa Morales Garcia won the prize for best poster at the 64th Symposium for Vertebrate Palaeontology and Comparative Anatomy, held at the University of Liverpool. She was competing with PhD students and established researchers, so this is a great achievement for a Masters student.

Download a pdf of Melisa's poster here.

Melisa answers some questions about the prize:

What does it feel like to win the prize?
I feel incredibly honoured to have received this prize, especially because I witnessed the exceptional quality of the research other authors did. Moreover, I feel encouraged to keep working to the best of my abilities and I'm eager to continue with my research.

Tell us about the key finding of your work shown in the poster.
The ecomorphology of ungulates from Miocene savannahs of North America has usually been compared to those in present-day East Africa; however, no one had attempted to prove this quantitatively. A correspondence analysis revealed that the Miocene ruminants and grazing equids constitute similar ecomorphs to those seen in the Serengeti, while the diversity of camelids is divergent from the modern African fauna, and is suggestive of habitat differences.

What did you think about the SVPCA meeting?
I think that the SVPCA meeting was a wonderful opportunity to become acquainted with other researchers and to learn about the work my peers are doing. All of the research topics presented at the meeting were really interesting and gave me new perspectives on the different techniques that can be applied in vertebrate palaeontology.

I am from Pachuca, Hidalgo, Mexico. I have a BSc in Biology from the Universidad Autonoma del Estado de Hidalgo (Mexico), which I completed with honours. My undergraduate thesis was mainly related to the taxonomic characterisation of several specimens of mastodons (Mammut americanum) from the Late Cenozoic of central Mexico. This was achieved by an extensive and thorough description of cranial and postcranial elements, and by the comparison of the skeletal elements with those of gomphotheres and mammoths. Additionally, several palaeoecological aspects of the individuals, such as body size, diet, and habitat, were determined by means of morphometric and isotopic analyses. I have also worked with mammalian coprolites from the Late Pleistocene of central Mexico. I am currently studying for my MSc in Palaeobiology at the University of Bristol, where I hope to learn new methods of palaeontological interest and gain research experience.

Before coming to Bristol, I had research experience on two projects. First was my undergraduate thesis, on 'Taxonomic characterisation of the mastodons at the Paleontology Museum of the Universidad Autonoma del Estado de Hidalgo', supervised by Dr Victor Manuel Bravo Cuevas. I was also project assistant on a research topic concerning 'The record of terrestrial ungulates during the Pleistocene of Hidalgo, Puebla and Tlaxcala, central Mexico: Interpretation of dietary habits and characterisation of terrestrial paleocommunities' (January-July 2014), sponsored by CONACyT, the Mexican scientific research funding agency.

I presented my work at the VIII Latin-American Meeting of Paleontology & XIII National Meeting of Paleontology in 2013 (poster on 'Variation of the occlusal area in the third molars of Rhynchotherium and Cuvieronius) and the II Symposium of Paleontology in Southeastern Mexico in 2014 (talk on 'Description of a specimen of Mammut americanum (Proboscidea, Mammutidae) from the Pliocene-Pleistocene of Santiago de Anaya, Hidalgo, Mexico').

I think the Birstol MSc in Palaeobiology is an outstanding programme that gives you strong theoretical and methodological bases for the study of palaeobiology. This MSc program has provided me with the necessary tools to be a successful researcher and science communicator.

I will be starting a PhD here in Bristol in September 2016, under the supervision of Emily Rayfield, Christine Janis, and Pam Gill. My research will be focused on the study of the functional and ecological diversity of several faunas of Mesozoic mammals by using a biomechanical approach.

Melisa Morales Garcia, August 2016.

Read more about Melisa on her personal web site here.

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