Saturday, June 8, 2013

Dr. Derek Main: Farewell to a Man I Wish I'd Known

I had never heard of Derek Main before news broke Wednesday of his passing the day before. (There are quite a few paleo folks that I'm still not familiar with, so this doesn't surprise me.) Despite this, I have felt a profound sense of sorrow and regret these past few days, presumably because I will never have the opportunity to meet him. I don't generally get emotional about death, but the reactions I've seen tell me that he was a wonderful person and a true credit to his field.

Photo courtesy of the Arlington Archosaur Site Facebook page

Despite my previous unfamiliarity, I have learned that Dr. Main was the director of the Arlington Archosaur Site in northern Texas( and taught courses at University of Texas-Arlington. He was a guest speaker at TEDxUTA(bio here: in April and had just received his Ph.D. last month. More specifics about Dr. Main can be found at UTA's Shorthorn website( and a brief obituary is available from Donnelly's Colonial Funeral Home( There is also a news report from ABC's WFAA affiliate in Dallas that I've included below.

To me, Dr. Derek Main serves as both an inspiration and a cautionary tale. I only recently began to truly delve into paleontology and biology, and as I push toward 30, I tend to wonder how seriously I can pursue these avenues as more than a hobby. The fact that Dr. Main didn't receive his Ph.D. until the age of 41 reminds me that I still have time for higher education. It is with sad irony that he also reminds me that no one really knows how much time we have to do anything.

Given the circumstances, I can honestly say that I wish I hadn't heard of Derek Main. He should still be down in Texas, living the life of a paleontologist and advancing the knowledge of his students and the public. My first exposure to his name should have come through a great discovery or a chance meeting later in our lives. Unfortunately, this is not the case, and those who cared about him are left with nothing but happy memories and a sad truth. Life is a wonderful but cruel thing, and time catches us all eventually. Society's most common wish is for the deceased to rest in peace, but in this case, I like to think that Dr. Main is now walking with the dinosaurs.

(Since I usually include a song somewhere, I felt that a sad song with a dinosaur in the title would be appropriate.)

Note: The Arlington Archosaur Site is currently accepting donations in tribute to Dr. Main. Some have suggested the donations to be in the amount of $41, one dollar for each year of his life, but any denomination is welcome. Head over to the AAS website( to contribute if you can.

1 comment:

  1. I hadn't heard of him before, either, but have boatloads of friends who knew him well, many of whom are attending the services. The notes and messages on Facebook are just heartbreaking. His death touches *very* close to home, as I am also a paleontologist and of the tender age of 41. My life could end tomorrow. There's a lot I need to do yet...