Mr Jacob Blokland

Community Development Officer

Student Experience and Management

place Bedford Park
GPO Box 2100, Adelaide 5001, South Australia

I come from a small, rural area called Broadfields in Canterbury, New Zealand, with a background in geology and biological sciences, which I studied at University of Canterbury. Upon completing my MSc there, which focused on the description, comparison, palaeobiology and phylogenetics relating to Paleocene (~62-60 million-year-old) fossil penguins from Chatham Island, I moved to South Australia in 2018 to pursue avian palaeontology.

I am generally passionate about the comparative anatomy of birds and its application to understanding extinct life. Under the supervision of Associate Professor Trevor H. Worthy and Professor Mike S. Y. Lee, my PhD research focuses on the cosmopolitan and speciose bird family Rallidae (rails, moorhens, coots, crakes and allies), particularly Oligocene and Miocene fossils of around 26 to 16 million-years-old. This project predominately involves taxonomic descriptions and comparisons of fossil forms, as well as a large component associated with phylogenetic inference, and aims to shed light on the relationships of these ancient forms to their living counterparts, and the patterns and processes relating to the modern radiation. I am also involved in projects aimed at developing our understanding of the early Miocene (19-16 million-year-old) St Bathans fauna of New Zealand and the enigmatic Dromornithidae of Australia.

As part of the Flinders Palaeontology Research Group, I am grateful to be involved in the BSc (Palaeontology) degree, where I teach part of the Scientific Illustration topic, phylogenetic inference in the 3rd year Vertebrate Palaeontology, supervise student research projects for 2nd year Vertebrate Form and Function, and assist in tuition where palaeoornithology is a focus. Since 2020, I have also been preparing bird skeletons for the Flinders University Vertebrate Collection (FUVC).

  • Master of Science (M.Sc.), First Class Honours, 2017, Geology, University of Canterbury, New Zealand: "Bird fossils from the Takatika Grit, Chatham Island, New Zealand". Description, comparision and phylogenetic investigation of Paleocene penguin fossils from Chatham Island, New Zealand

  • Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.), Geology and Biology (double major), 2013, University of Canterbury, New Zealand

Honours, awards and grants

Systematics Research Fund Grant, 2020 (£609.92 GBP)

Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) short-term research scholarship, 2019 (£1,975 EUR)

Flinders University Overseas Field Trip Grant, 2019 ($2,500 AUD)

Royal Society of South Australia Small Research Grants Scheme, 2018 ($1,500 AUD)

Mason Trust Research Grant, 2015

Golden Key International Honours Society (awarded 2011)

Key responsibilities
Topic lecturer
BIOL2306 Scientific Illustration
BIOL3703 Vertebrate Palaeontology
Further information


I am part of the Flinders Palaeontology Group, one of the best places in Australia to study the deep history of life. This is an inclusive centre of learning where researchers, students and volunteers work together to explore patterns in the evolution and ecology of vertebrates through time, and the environmental processes that have influenced them. Our research is global in scope, but we are especially committed to exploring the unique and understudied Australian fossil record.

Research into avian palaeontology and evolution at Flinders covers a wide spectrum of issues, from the origin of birds to the assembly of the modern Australasian avifaunas and how they responded to climate oscillations during the Quaternary. More information regarding my part in this research can be found here.

The Conversation