How do scientists commemorate the career and accomplishments of their colleagues? Not with a party and gifts, but with a “Festschrift,” which is the publication of a special volume of scientific papers written and compiled in dedication to their colleague. Two former researchers at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology each have been honoured with their own Festschrifts: Philip Currie in 2001 and the late Betsy Nicholls in 2006. More recently, Royal Tyrrell Museum researchers have been organizing Festschrifts for deserving colleagues.
The newest addition is the March 2016 issue of the journal Palaeobiodiversity and Palaeoenvironments. Co-edited by Royal Tyrrell Museum researcher Jim Gardner and colleague Tomáš Přikryl (Czech Academy of Sciences and Charles University, Prague), this new Festschrift honours the Czech herpetologist Zbyněk Roček.
As summarized by the editors’ introductory article in the Festschrift, the honouree Zbyněk Roček has led an interesting life and career.
He was born soon after the end of the Second World War, in a small town in what was then Czechoslovakia. He grew up, did his schooling, and began his academic career under the communist regime that dominated all aspects of private and professional life across Eastern Europe in those grim Cold War years.
By the mid-1990s, circumstances had changed markedly: communism had collapsed across Eastern Europe, the former Czechoslovakia had peacefully split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia, and Prague (the capital of the Czech Republic and where Prof. Roček lived) once again was becoming a fashionable and vibrant European city.
For the first time in several generations, Eastern European scientists could freely interact and exchange ideas with colleagues in the West. That change resulted in a surge of new work and collaborations, which have benefited science immensely. In a manner familiar to many scientists, the way in which Prof. Roček’s academic career unfolded was due to a sequence of fortuitous events, helpful colleagues, and seized opportunities.
Originally intending to be an ornithologist (bird biologist), Zbyněk instead was encouraged to switch to herpetology (study of amphibians and reptiles), and he ultimately became a leading expert on the evolution and fossil record of frogs. During his nearly five decades long career, Prof. Roček has published numerous articles and books, taught several generations of zoologists, and continues to be an active researcher well into retirement.
Like any good Festschrift, Professor Roček’s volume reflects the breadth of his research interests. It contains nine papers about fish, amphibians, and reptiles, ranging in age from the earliest Mesozoic through to the present, and with near global coverage. Participation by a total of 23 authors, from 11 countries and at varying stages of their careers, attests to the esteem Prof. Roček has earned within the scientific community.
For the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology, our participation in this volume continues our institution’s tradition of fostering international collaborative scientific research.
For a limited time (until 30 April 2016), the publisher is generously providing free access to the entire volume at: http://link.springer.com/journal/12549/96/1/page/1