REF2014 Impact Case Study: Public engagement with evolutionary science: pterosaurs hit the big and little screen

  • David Michael Martill (Participant)

    Impact: Cultural & Creative Impacts, Educational Impacts (beyond UoP), Economic & Commercial Impacts

    Description of impact

    Research on the anatomy, physiology and palaeoecology of pterosaurs by the Palaeobiology Group at Portsmouth University has had a wide and acknowledged impact, underpinning the creation and production of award-winning and pioneering television and film productions worldwide. The dual impacts of this work lie in public engagement in evolutionary science and in supporting the generation of more than $10 M income for the UK TV and film industry.

    Who is affected

    UK TV and film industry; general public.


    The impact of this work is recognised by Sir David Attenborough, and by the producers of such TV successes as Walking With Dinosaurs and Flying Monsters 3D. These cutting-edge evolutionary science productions have reached a global audience, both fostering a positive view of science and supporting the generation of millions of pounds by the UK TV and film industry. Whilst the $10M+ income generated by these documentaries for the UK TV and film industry is highly significant, perhaps their greatest impact lies in bringing cutting-edge evolutionary science direct to the World’s film and TV screens. Not only does this engage and inspire the next generation of scientists, but it also impacts the worldwide evolution/creationism debate and fosters a positive view of science.
    In 2010 the Portsmouth team were invited to provide the “headline” exhibit for the Royal Society’s 350th Anniversary Exhibition at London’s Southbank. Martill and Witton’s remarkable reconstructions of azhdarchid pterosaurs were suspended around the exhibition hall, providing a dramatic focus for the events’ 70,000 visitors and for media coverage.
    Impact statusOpen
    Category of impactCultural & Creative Impacts, Educational Impacts (beyond UoP), Economic & Commercial Impacts
    Impact levelBenefit (delivered impact)


    • evolutionary science
    • public engagement
    • dinosaurs
    • BBC


    • REF2014