About Me and this Blog

Name: Marc Srour

Contacts: marcsrour@gmail.com; marc@orangereel.com

Employment: Managing Director of Orangereel Creative Collective.


I have been through a  face to face meeting with the deadly Japanese giant hornet but got stung by regular honeybees.  I have kicked a cobra in the face but got bitten by a lowly grass snake. I have brushed away scorpions with my bare hands, but was taken down by one in my shoe.

As a teenager, instead of doing anything at school, I made a video game from scratch. It cannot be played because of a mysterious start-up bug that haunts me to this day. I also wrote and storyboarded movie scripts. I studied geosciences with a focus on palaeontology at the University of Bonn, but was an educational failure because of a narrow-minded obsession with too many subjects, most of which were not even pertinent to the degree. I eschewed the traditional path by prematurely moving to a research- and teaching-centered life, resulting in over five years of my life being wasted as nobody grants any funding or opportunities to those without the necessary pieces of paper.

But that is just dwelling on the follies of youth and the negatives they bring. I have collected rocks from the top of the Alps, fossils from the humid depths of India, and insects from the montane forests of northern Japan. I touched specimens unseen for decades, coughed from dust settled in books neglected for centuries, and brought organisms that were laying dormant for a thousand years back to life.

My core specialties are in invertebrate palaeontology, invertebrate zoology, and phylogenetic systematics. In terms of technical skills, I am well-versed in phylogenetic bioinformatics (particularly when it comes to morphological datasets), macro photography (I developed a system that takes 100+ photos per minute, allowing rapid, high-resolution digitisation of insect specimens of sub-mm to 4mm-sizes, with automated morphometric data extraction), and databasing for biodiversity projects.

My main research interests are varied, but the main ones are:

  1. The origin of animals, and especially the early evolution of arthropods
  2. Metazoan phylogenetics, with a focus on higher arthropod relationships;
  3. Comparative invertebrate zoology;
  4. Macroevolution, and the relationship between micro- and macroevolution;
  5. Population-level morphological phylogenetics, and its use in species delimitation and discovery;
  6. Metapopulation ecology, with a focus on Anostraca;
  7. History of biology, especially the development of comparative zoology;
  8. Levels of selection;
  9. Philosophy of systematics.

In relation to these topics, I have been involved in several research projects. My BSc. thesis consisted of the redescription of two stem-group arthropods from the Devonian Hunsrück Slates of Germany. In Cyprus, I have a long-term project cataloging the diversity of terrestrial arthropods of the island, which serves as a stepping stone to studying points 4 and 5, as the evolutionary rates of the island populations are affected by its geology – see here.

Smaller projects have come and gone, although to date, none have been completed, results of my crippling perfectionism and complete lacks of funding and/or free time to dedicate to them. You can read about some of the projects here.

Having such a diversity of research interests has led me to my greatest pride and joy: my personal research database, consisting of over 300000 PDFs and growing daily. Fully curated and searchable, this will be my contribution to the world’s rebirth after an apocalyptic destruction of modern civilisation, should such an event happen. For now, it is a bored unemployed man’s personal Library of Alexandria.

Although research is what I like doing, teaching has always been a big part of my activities. This website is testament to that. I have given many public and academic lectures – enough that the presentations fill up more than 25GB on my drive. Some of those are available here. I also work with schools to provide extracurricular field trips and lessons, and always try to get a natural history museum tour guide job in any city I live in. For whatever it’s worth, I have also come third in the Cypriot edition of the FameLab science popularisation competition, and was a Top Writer twice (2012, 2013) at Quora.

Basically, if public lecturing could be a stable job, I would love to have it. Too bad it isn’t.

Outside of all the scientific stuff, my main job is in film and advertising. A long time movie buff, were it not for studying science, I would have been either a screenwriter or a director, and I have plenty of scripts and storyboards waiting to be filmed. As it is, I help others make movies as the managing director of Orangereel Creative Collective, a talent management agency representing directors, cinematographers, animators, photographers, illustrators, and weird combinations thereof.

Research Skills and Experience:

  • Invertebrate collection: Ultra-low-budget invertebrate collection methods in terrestrial and aquatic habitats, for taxonomic and ecological research.
  • Fossil collection: Invertebrate macrofossil collection and safe transport methods.
  • Collection curation: Invertebrate, geological, and palaeontological specimen storage; databasing and collection management.
  • Stratigraphy: Profile drawing, interpretation. GIS integration.
  • Taxonomic expertise: Formicidae and Coleoptera of the MENA region and Greece; Pliocene-Recent Mollusca of the Eastern Mediterranean.
  • Dissection: Especially micro-dissections.
  • Histology of arthropod tissues.
  • Phylogenetic tree-building: Using ape, PAUP*, Mesquite, PHYLIP, BEAST, and MrBayes.
  • Librarian experience: Curating and managing 300000+ research articles in Zotero, Mendeley, and self-written software.
  • Programming languages: Python, Perl, Ruby, R.
  • Natural languages: English (native), French (C2), German (C1), Cypriot Greek (B2), Arabic (spoken and listening native, A2 in all else).
  • Technical knowledge: µ-CT hardware and software configuration; soldering.
  • Scientific illustration: pencil, ink, and digital vector art. No talent, only with camera lucida.

One Comment

  1. Pingback: The Scientific Method, Exemplified By Palaeontology | Teaching Biology

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