Tributes flow for palaeontologist

Prof Ewan Fordyce. Photo: Gerard O'Brien/ODT files
Prof Ewan Fordyce. Photo: Gerard O'Brien/ODT files
A world-leading University of Otago palaeontologist is being remembered for his "immense" impact on the field.

Tributes have been flowing for Emeritus Prof Robert Ewan Fordyce who died aged 70 last week.

During his nearly 40-year career, he played an enormous role in building Otago’s Geology Museum collections, publishing volumes of research, and training generations of students.

His research on ancient marine animals from the rocks of North Otago and South Canterbury helped enable the creation of Duntroon’s Vanished World Centre and the Unesco Waitaki Whitestone Geopark.

He retired in 2021, but earlier this year, a 57 million-year-old, 150kg giant penguin fossil found on a North Otago beach was named after him: the Kumimanu fordycei.

Department of geology head Associate Prof Andrew Gorman said Prof Fordyce joined the geology department in 1982 and was the face of paleontology for many in New Zealand for much of his career.

"Prof Fordyce’s contribution to Otago and the study of palaeontology in New Zealand has been immense.

"In addition to being an engaging lecturer, Ewan has a long history as a field geologist, finding, excavating and studying large fossil vertebrates from New Zealand’s past," Assoc Prof Gorman said.

Assoc Prof Gorman said Prof Fordyce trained many of New Zealand’s palaeontology researchers and his expertise was drawn on from around the world.

"Although he retired in 2021, his work continues on in the scientists that he trained and the substantial collections of fossil material yet to be fully evaluated."