Finn (12) completes university course on dinosaur biology

Budding palaeontologist Finn McKellar with his university certificate and fossil collection
Budding palaeontologist Finn McKellar with his university certificate and fossil collection

Lots of boys his age have no idea what they want to do when they leave school, but that is not a problem for Finn McKellar.

Dinosaur-mad Finn is so keen on palaeontology he has just completed an online course run by the University of Alberta in Canada – which he started while still at primary school.

Having finished the Dino 101 course, Finn (12), who lives in Craigmarloch and recently started attending Our Lady’s High School, is now embarking on his next university module in addition to his schoolwork.

Dad Matthew said: “Finn really wants to go to university and become a palaeontologist. As well as his online work he has built up a nice collection of fossils. He also attends the Kelvingrove young archaeologists’ club – we’re not sure if he’ll be Indiana Jones or Dr Grant from Jurassic Park!”

Finn is also building a website where he intends to raise awareness on the Subject of dinosaurs having feathers.

Led by Professor Phil Currie - one of the world’s top palaentologists and the inspiration behind Alan Grant of Jurassic Park - Dino 101 is Alberta’s first Massive Open Online Course on the topic of palaeobiology.

Dr Currie said it is “pretty rare overall” for a pre-teen child to complete Dino 101, although there have been a few exceptions. The youngest child to complete the course was just six years old.

“Most just get intimidated by the fact that it’s aimed at university students,” he said.

“Anybody can learn, they just have to have a strong enough interest in it.

“There are certainly not just budding paleontologists who can take this course, but there are budding mathematicians out there who could take other university courses as well. It’s a very good indication of what’s possible should someone be interested enough in any subject.”

Dr Currie also says he can relate to children who show passion and interest for paleontology at such a young age.

“I was one of those kids who at the age of 11 had decided already that I was going to be a dinosaur paleontologist working in Alberta.”

The twelve-week course consists of instructional videos, with brief lectures given from museums, fossil preparation sites and digs.

The course includes questions and a unit test at the end of each session. It also includes mid-term and end-of-course examinations which count towards university credit, although Finn is too young to qualify for this.

Alberta is one of the most famous areas in palaeontology, particularly at Dinosaur Provincial Park which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Over 1,000 fossil specimens have been recovered from this location, resulting in the discovery of 40 dinosaur species.