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Professor Emily Rayfield

Professor Emily Rayfield

Professor Emily Rayfield
B.A.(Oxon.), Ph.D.(Cantab.)

Professor of Palaeobiology

Area of research

How skeletal mechanics influences morphological evolution and the relationship between form and function in hard tissues

Office LSB 119
Life Sciences Building,
24 Tyndall Avenue, Bristol BS8 1TQ
(See a map)

+44 (0) 117 39 41210


My research focuses on how skeletal mechanics influences morphological evolution and the relationship between form and function in hard tissues - primarily, but not exclusively, the vertebrate skull.

My research uses the engineering technique finite element analysis (FEA) to deduce skeletal stress and strain during function. In particular I am interested in how FEA can inform on functional behaviour in individual taxa and elucidate functional ecology and morphological changes across evolutionary transitions such as the origin of birds and mammals. Such studies are constrained by my research on FE-validation in birds, testing how accurately our FE-models approach reality.

My group takes advantage of our facilities in tomography reconstruction, FEA software, histological thin-section preparation and strain gauge analysis.


I am the Programme Director of the BSc/MSci Palaeontology and Evolution and BSc Geology Biology undergraduate degrees. 

I am unit organiser for the Evolution of Earth and Life subunit of the Year 1 Geology 1 unit EASC 10001, Year 3 unit EASC 30048 Palaeobiology Analytical Project and the EASC M0024 Biomechanics and Functional Morphology available to all Earth Sciences undergraduates and to students on the MSc Palaeobiology course. I teach on the first year Arran field trip during/after the Easter vacation, attend the introductory field trip to Kilve and a one-day Year 1 trip to South Wales.

I teach undergradaute tutorial groups and supervise a number of MSci Palaeontology and Evolution and MSc Palaeobiology research projects each year, and teach occasional lectures on other taught courses. 


  • skeletal mechanics
  • evolution
  • finite element analysis

Selected publications

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Recent publications

View complete publications list in the University of Bristol publications system


Professor Rayfield currently teaches 7 courses:

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