Professor Anjali Goswami

Dig, Dig, Dinosaur
Professor Anjali Goswami

About Author

Professor Anjali Goswami's first children's book, Dig, Dig, Dinosaur, is aimed at sharing her passion about nature.

She grew up around Detroit, Michigan (USA), but spent long periods in India, where her love of nature was first sparked by seeing a tiger when she was four years old. She is now a research leader in Palaeobiology and dean of Postgraduate Education at the Natural History Museum, London. 

Anjali has led expeditions to search for fossils all over the world, including India, Argentina, and Svalbard. She is passionate about inspiring people around the world to explore, study, and protect nature.

 

Interview

Dig, Dig, Dinosaur   (Nosy Crow)

July 2024

Combining all the joys of dinosaurs with the thrill of discovering these incredible fossils, Dig, Dig, Dinosaur talks young children aged three years plus on a dinosaur dig, showing them what equipment they will need and how to dig down to make their finds!  The peep-through pages give children a real sense of discovery, finding out as they turn the pages what lies below.

We spoke with the author and real life palaeontologist Professor Anjali Goswami to find out what inspired Dig, Dig, Dinosaur - and how she hopes it will help inspire young children to discover more about our world. You can also find some of the vibrant illustrations from the book, by Maggie Li, below.

Review:  'Become a real life palaeontologist with Dig, Dig, Dinosaur!' - Jessica, ReadingZone

 

Q&A with Professor Anjali Goswami, introducing Dig, Dig, Dinosaur

"I really want readers to get the sense of excitement that comes from discovering dinosaurs out in the field.
It is absolutely the most fun part of being a palaeontologist."


1.    How have you been involved in dinosaurs in your career, and what first got you interested in this field? What have been your career highlights to date?

I have always loved animals and wildlife, as well as being outdoors in nature. Although I knew about dinosaurs as a child, I didn't really know that being a palaeontologist was a real job until I went to university and met professors who were actual palaeontologists. Taking a class where we went into the field and found fossils and learned to interpret what they would have been like when they were alive completely changed my life, and I decided to become a palaeontologist myself.

My first projects were on mammal evolution, especially studying the evolution of whales from land mammals, but now I work on lots of different vertebrate fossils, especially looking at the period just before the Cretaceous mass extinction, when dinosaurs went extinct. I want to know what the world was like when dinosaurs ruled it, especially in places where we don't yet have lots of fossils uncovered.

Some of my highlights have been discovering a skull of a new species of theropod dinosaur in the mountains of Argentina, digging up skeletons of giant sauropod dinosaurs in India, and finding lots of bones of early ankylosaurs and stegosaurs in Morocco.


2.    Why do you think we, and especially children, are so endlessly fascinated by dinosaurs?

It's so hard to imagine our world with giant reptiles walking around, towering over buildings and trees, and as much as 10 times bigger than the biggest mammals we have on land today (elephants). It's like a science fiction story, but it's actually our own past, not the future, and it gives us an entirely different picture of our world.

That we still have dinosaurs around today, because birds are the descendants of dinosaurs, makes it even stranger. And the idea that we can dig in the ground and discover all these secrets of a past world, long gone, and that we have barely scratched the surface of mysteries of the fossil record, make it endlessly fascinating. There is so much more to discover!


3.    What inspired you to write a book for young children, taking them on an imaginary dig for dinosaurs in Dig, Dig, Dinosaur?

I lead and take part in a few digs each year, and have for over 20 years. It's my absolutely favourite part of being a palaeontologist, hiking in the middle of nowhere and discovering skeletons in the dirt.

But when I had children of my own, I didn't find any books about dinosaurs that told this part of the story, and that inspired me to write a book of my own, to inspire children with the most fun part of being a palaeontologist, which is being an explorer!


4.    The pages start with preparations for an actual dig by showing what tools they would need. Can you suggest any activities for parents and teachers to take this further with young children?

I love burying fossils and rocks in a sandpit for my children to dig up, which is easy to do at home in just a tray or paddling pool. We use brushes, trowels, and sieves to uncover the fossils, and also use a little magnifying glass to look at rocks and fossils and study what they look like close-up. We then take notes on what they look like and try to identify them with fossil guides.


5.    You've included the proper names of dinosaurs in your story - do you find that children enjoy learning these?

Children are so much better at learning dinosaur names than most adults, or even many palaeontologists! The great thing about scientific names is that they are the same in every language, so you can talk to people around the world and every understands Tyrannosaurus. I think children especially love to know all the details about things they are interested in, which is why they are so good at learning dinosaur names.


6.    How did you choose which dinosaurs to include in these pages - and do you think children will be surprised that there's an even bigger dinosaur than a Tyrannosaurus?!

I wanted to pick dinosaurs that were familiar to most people, and ones that they might be able to see at a local museum to help them picture them even better. I included a mix of features that I thought children would know and maybe some that were a bit surprising about each dinosaur. I especially wanted them to see that T-rex is big, but definitely not even close to being the biggest dinosaurs - that title belongs to the sauropods!


7.    The gorgeous illustrations by Maggie Li are joyful and the flaps are fun, showing the dinosaurs and the landscapes they might have lived in. How accurate are these depictions?

They are as accurate as the current science can tell us. There are still a lot of debates on some aspects, like how many feathers some of the big theropod dinosaurs, like T-rex, may have had. We tried to capture that as best as we could, by showing it with some feathers but not lots. We also don't know what colour they were, but there is some evidence that dinosaurs definitely did have different colour patterns, like modern birds do.


8.    What would you like your readers to enjoy in Dig, Dig, Dinosaur - and will you follow this up with another book about dinosaurs, perhaps for older readers?

I really want readers to get the sense of excitement that comes from discovering dinosaurs out in the field. It is absolutely the most fun part of being a palaeontologist and I want to inspire children to go out and explore the world, including just in their own neighbourhoods, to see what they can discover out in nature.

I would definitely like to follow this up with more books, not just for older children but also on other kinds of exciting fossils, like sabre-toothed cats and mammoths from the Ice Age.


9.    Where will your research into dinosaurs take you next? What do you hope we'll find out more about dinosaurs?

I mainly work in the areas of the world that used to be part of the supercontinent Gondwanaland. So far this year, I've been digging up dinosaurs in India and Morocco, and I hope to go to Argentina later this year.

I love going places where we can find lots of new species, not just dinosaurs, but mammals, lizards, snakes, and all of the smaller animals that were living in the shadows of the dinosaurs. I want to know more about their communities and how they evolved, and why some of them survived the mass extinction when the dinosaurs didn't. I especially want to build a full picture on life across Earth in the past, which means we need to discover more fossils in places that have been explored fully yet.


10.    And what are your favourite ways to relax, away from research and writing?

I love hiking and travelling to new places. Around London, our favourite things to do are to walk along the river and visit art museums and go to the theatre. I also always love cuddling in our hammock with my kids and a good book or taking our big dog for a long walk in the park. I also do love a bit of Nintendo too - Zelda is my favourite game!

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