Lisa Buckley
Lisa Buckley. Photo provided by Lisa Buckley.

I am a vertebrate paleontologist who specializes in the study of the tracks and traces of Mesozoic animals, specifically Cretaceous-age (145 million years ago to 66 million years ago) dinosaurs and birds! I use present day bird tracks and bird behavior to better understand the lives and diversity of extinct birds. I also share my love of birds through Bird Glamour, my #scicomm project where I showcase the colors and patterns of birds on my face using cosmetics to get people excited about birds!

Twitter and Instagram: @Lisavipes
Website with Bird Glamour, blog, and professional information: https://lisagbuckley.com
Bird Glamour YouTube channel

1 Are you an early bird or night owl?

I’m definitely a night owl, which is really not a good thing if you’re a big bird nerd (darn early birds!) If I am planning birding or field trips, I can be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 4:30 am…with a copious infusion of Earl Grey tea!

2 Are you pro- or anti-pun?

Pro Pun! I was raised on the Muppet Show, so I really had no chance.

3 Do you have any pets?

I am su-purr-vised by the esteemed @MaiaFieldCat, my almost 17-year-old floofy black and white kitty! She’s been with me through two graduate degrees and three moves! She has also joined me on a paleontology fieldwork trip (she supervised our camper trailer.)

4 Do you have any science-themed home decor?

Our chairs have bird-themed pillows, and we have a couple of pieces of artwork from paleo-artist Michael Skrepnick featuring ankylosaurs (armored dinosaurs) and an allosaur (Acrocanthosaurus) leaving footprints. I also have several framed prints of birds from old nature books.

5 Do you prefer cooking or baking?

Yes! I probably do more cooking than baking, but we do make bread, cheese, and mead.

6 Do you prefer sweet or savory?

Savory! I love spicy, heavily seasoned food. Break out the spices! Life is too short to have bland cuisine! Of course, if someone puts a plate of chocolate-dipped shortbread in front of me, those cookies will be eaten with gusto.

7 Do you speak any other languages?

No. I took Canadian French from kindergarten to Grade 11, but it wasn’t immersion. I have started Spanish on Duolingo, but I’m just in the beginning stages.

8 If you could switch professions, what would you do?

I enjoy teaching and would love to have students, who are interested in studying modern and fossil footprints, so a professor with a research lab would be a great position!

9 If you could switch science fields, what field would you want to work in?

Ornithology! I am really interested in bird behavior, especially brood parasitism! I also would love to study how birds physically alter their environments (digging, burrowing, nest carving, weaving, etc.)

10 If you got a plane ticket right now, where would it go?

A return visit to South Korea so that I could spend a couple of months studying the immense Early Cretaceous bird footprint collections.

11 If you had one superpower, what would it be?

Telekinesis would be super useful, especially for fieldwork! Mind-reading would also be extremely useful, but I think you’d want to also be able to turn that power on and off at your command.

12 Is there anything you strongly recommend we watch and/or read and/or listen to?

Definitely seek out the voices of people who have experiences, culture, backgrounds, etc. that are different from your own (except for people spewing hate and dangerous anti-science or pseudo-science voices: they don’t deserve your ears.) That’s only the first step. The next step is the most important: LISTEN. Sit and think about what other people are saying and why they are saying it. It may mean challenging some of your biases and things you’ve taken for granted.

13 It’s your day off. What do you want to do?

Very likely I’ll sleep in! If I’m in an area that has access to hiking trails I’d want to go on a nice long hike to check out the scenery and the birds. Then I’ll make a great dinner and watch a movie.

14 What are three things you can’t live without?

I’ve had an upheaval or two, so I’ve learned that the three most important things in my life are my husband and family, my kitty, and my wits. Everything else is negotiable.

15 What beverage gives you life?

Earl Grey Tea with added lemongrass and citrus peel. It really cuts through my morning mental fog!

16 What book did you read in school that positively shaped you?

I don’t have a certain book that stands out. I’ll probably think of one as soon as I hit “Send.”

17 What did you want to be be when you grew up?

I wanted to be a paleontologist!

18 What drives you and keeps you going?

Good question. If I try and fail, then that’s OK: at least I tried. But if I don’t try, then I’ve never even given myself a chance, and I’ve failed myself.

19 What got you excited in science?

This is related to 17. It was before I had started kindergarten. I remember sitting on my great-aunt’s lap while she was showing me one of her general audience paleontology books. She was always interested in natural history, but she ended up working right out of high school to support her parents. Looking at all of the fantastic critters in the book, I must have asked: “How do we know?” She replied, “People called paleontologists study them.” I remember thinking “Yeah, that’s what I want to do!”

20 What excites you about science now?

There’s so much we still don’t know! One issue I have with some of the paleontology public interest programs is seeing people present the field as having answered all of the questions or presenting speculation as fact. It’s just not the case: there’s still so much we don’t know, especially with the behavior of extinct animals like dinosaurs. There’s still so much to learn from our present-day critters that can be applied to paleontology.

21 What is a guilty pleasure of yours?

Food-wise, I have been known to consume an entire container of cream cheese-based dip in one sitting. I’m a TV show binge-watcher. I watched all of the episodes of Skin Wars, on Netflix but I consider that show informative for Bird Glamour. I am currently binge-watching Forensic Files.

22 What is a secret talent of yours?

It’s probably not-so-secret anymore, but I can apply makeup! That applies directly to Question 40.

23 What is your favorite game?

I do enjoy chess, but don’t end up playing it a great deal. During fieldwork, there’s always a deck of cards handy!

24 What is the last book you read?

Non-fiction: The Royal Art of Poison by Eleanor Herman Fiction: Duma Key by Stephen King

25 What is one of the best pieces of advice you’ve received?

No matter what other people do, you can only control your own actions. Oh, and if you’re nervous to try something, or ask for something, just go for it. The worst thing you can be told is no. They can’t take away your birthday.

26 What is something you’ve always wanted to try but you’ve been too scared to do?

Learning how to dance. I have all the rhythm of a clumsy octopus, and feel so self-conscious when I try.

27 What is the best advice for your 18 year old self?

There’s always going to be someone there to tell you why you shouldn’t go for your dream, tell you in extreme detail why you’ll fail, and may even go out of their way to help you fail. Remove them from your sphere if you can (distance yourself if you can’t) and seek out the people who are happy when people other than themselves succeed. They’re out there!

28 What is the best way to de-stress?

Doing something for fun, whatever that fun thing is for you! Walk! Watch TV/movies! Read solely for fun! Pet floofy animals (don’t pet wild animals)! Try on fun clothes! Try something artsy! Sleep, if you can! De-stressing for me means getting away from the sources of the stress, even if it’s only getting away digitally. I’ve cut down a lot of stress by being very strict with myself about not answering email after work hours, and definitely not on the weekend.

29 What is the last thing you watched?

Alien Resurrection. I fell asleep.

30 What is the weirdest thing you’ve had in your bag?

A regurgitated pellet from a Common Raven that I collected for an educational activity.

31 What is your favorite animal?

Owls, a.k.a. stealthy theropods!

32 What is your favorite book?

The Once and Future King, by T. H. White. Ender’s Game, by Orsen Scott Card.

33 What is your favorite comfort food?

Dang. There are so many options flooding my brain right now. My recent go-to has been Old Dutch sour cream and onion ripple chips with a cream cheese based dip (probably something with garlic in it!)

34 What is your favorite day of the year?

Hallowe’en! It’s when all of the supposedly creepy critters (owls, ravens, spiders, frogs, wolves, etc.) get showcased!

35 What is your favorite plant?

I love foxgloves! Watching bees abdomens hanging out of foxglove flowers is amusing. I also love lilacs! I spent a lot of time as a kid watching pollinators visit my parents’ huge lilac bushes.

36 What is your favorite science fact?

Dinosaurs are not extinct! In fact, dinosaurs are doing quite well, since birds are all around us!

37 What is your favorite season?

Summer

38 What is your favorite smell?

Wild roses

39 What is your favorite sound?

Rain on the tent

40 What is your favorite thing about yourself?

I am very pleased that I started Bird Glamour, my science communication project where I apply cosmetics in the colors and patterns of birds to get people interested in bird life history and conservation! It’s a bit of an intimidating thing to literally put your face out there in the public, but I’m so glad that I did. People have been really enjoying the project, and I hope it’s helping people to look at the birds and other wildlife around them with more interest. I’m also working on expanding Bird Glamour with more videos and other related activities. I’m learning a bunch of new skills!

41 What is your favorite word (in any language)?

I love the idea of wabi-sabi (Japanese), where the idea of beauty is in imperfections, impermanence, and incompleteness. To me, it’s an idea that, rather than hiding our flaws and imperfections, we say hello to them and accept them as part of our beautiful selves. It’s why I like the Japanese pottery kintsugi: broken objects are repaired so that the cracks and “flaws” are highlighted in beautiful colors, embracing the object’s history.

42 What is your proudest moment?

I am very proud of getting my Ph.D. It took me longer than “usual” to finish my degree: I was working a full-time position off campus. My full-time position was never stable (at the end of each year we didn’t know if we would be granted funding), and I had to work to fund the research part of my degree. During the day I would be doing curator and collections manager tasks, while at night I was analyzing my data and writing my thesis. In spite of the continued uncertainty with my employed position, I was able to finish my degree and get some of the chapters published.

43 What kind of tree would you be?

I have very fond memories of willow trees. They look so peaceful.

44 What’s the best thing about where you live?

I’m going to brag about the research program that my husband and partner Dr. Rich McCrea and I built at the Peace Region Palaeontology Research Centre. For 15 years we led the scientific research on dinosaurs and dinosaur tracks in British Columbia and built an amazing collaborative research program with colleagues from around the world who are interested in Early and Late Cretaceous footprints.

45 Tell us something we probably don’t know.

I do have some drawing skills. I haven’t exercised them in a while, so my skills have accumulated a bit of rust. One of the things I want to try is ink wash painting and experimenting with watercolors.

I’m a mushball when it comes to movies or stories or events that involve bad things happening to kids or animals. I have to avoid those stories.

46 Who would you like to see 46 Questions interview next?

So many people!
Asia Murphy
Earyn McGee
Katherine Crocker
Alex Bond
Lewis Bartlett