Both sides of a round gold-coloured medal from the Palaeontological Association

One of the world’s leading societies in palaeontological research, the Association’s award programme recognises the very best palaeontologists worldwide who have made significant research contributions in the field.

The President’s Medal is a mid-career award which recognises Professor Butler’s work on Mesozoic reptiles, which has fundamentally changed our understanding of the evolution of ornithischian (bird-hipped) dinosaurs, Triassic archosauromorphs, and terrestrial biodiversity through time.

Receiving the award, Professor Butler said: “I’m delighted to receive this award from the Palaeontological Association, which has been an important part of my professional life throughout my career. I’d like to thank the Association, my nominators, and all of my close colleagues and mentors at Birmingham and elsewhere who have supported me over many years.”

I’m delighted to receive this award from the Palaeontological Association, which has been an important part of my professional life throughout my career.

Professor Richard Butler, School of Geography, Earth & Environmental Sciences

Professor Butler’s PhD research at Cambridge focused on the early evolution of the bird-hipped dinosaurs. He built the first comprehensive evolutionary tree (phylogeny) of early ornithischians, using a large dataset that was at the limit of what it was possible to analyse computationally at the time. This work forms the basis of virtually every phylogenetic analysis of ornithischians that has been carried out since.

During his postdoctoral research at the Natural History Museum, London, Professor Butler analysed quantitatively the co-evolution of dinosaurs and flowering plants, and during postdocs in Munich funded by a Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship and the German Research Foundation he studied the archosaurs of the Triassic Period. Amongst others, his research team demonstrated that archosaurs evolved just a few million years after the end-Permian mass extinction, and that there was no evidence in the early evolution of the group for Cope’s Rule, which describes increasing body size in animal groups over evolutionary time.

Professor Richard Butler

Professor Butler has been at the University of Birmingham since 2013, working on the effects of sampling bias on the terrestrial fossil record and patterns of diversity on land through time and space, funded through the European Research Council, among others. His group have shown that previously supposed exponential rises in diversity through time are due to sampling biases, suggesting there are fundamental constraints on terrestrial biodiversity through much of Earth’s history.

He has mentored numerous early career researchers, and held many professional service roles including two stints on the Council of the Palaeontological Association, the latter as Vice-President. Alongside this, he has held numerous editorial roles, was the academic lead for the Lapworth Museum through its 2014–2016 redevelopment, oversaw the University’s successful REF 2021 submission in Earth & Environmental Sciences, and is currently Director of Research for the College of Life and Environmental Sciences.