Ian J. McKay

Ian J. McKay's picture
Ian
McKay

Ian began his education in 1981 at the University of the Witwatersrand in Zoology which included an MSc and PhD in Palaeontology, where he studied a unique fauna of fossil beetles that lived in the time of the dinosaurs in order to reconstruct the prehistoric environment that they lived in. When he left university Ian took a research position at the Onderstepoort, Veterinary Institute of the South African Agricultural Research Council where he studied ticks to identify new species that might bring diseases to humans, domestic and wild animals. While completing this work Ian saw the light and realised that his real passion was education and public engagement in science. In 1995 Ian completed his Postgraduate Diploma in Education specialising in Biology and Science Teaching.

While working as a Science and Environmental Education Specialist in an NGO Ian focused his work on the development of ‘micro-chemistry’ kits for water quality testing in environmental education programmes and in the deep rural areas of South Africa. Ian also oversaw a small team of writers who produced exemplar Science and Technology Education materials to help teachers implement the new curriculum changes that were taking place at the time.

After some consulting work in the science centre industry, Ian went on to complete most of an MBA, and to manage the outreach programme of the School of Geosciences and Bernhard Price Institute of Palaeontology at the University of the Witwatersrand. It was at this time that Ian discovered the joys of talking about evolution, fossils and genetics.
Recently Ian has taken over the role of Head: Education and Outreach for the Evolutionary Studies Institute at the University of the Witwatersrand and Education Specialist for the DST/NRF Centre of Excellence in Palaoesciences an NRF funded consortium of palaeosciences researchers including the Wits Evolutionary Studies Institute, University of Cape Town Department of Archaeology and the major natural history museums.

As long as he can remember, Ian has been passionate about engaging with the public on evolution, palaeontology and genetics to explain and discuss all the interesting topics that arise from these topics. It is for this reason that he has created a presentation called- “Are you related to a cabbage” which explains evolution and the basics of genetic ancestry testing to the public, teachers and school learners in an informal way. He has been presenting this talk for several years now at sessions on genetic ancestry testing which are held, almost monthly, at the Origins Centre in the University of the Witwatersrand in conjunction with the National Health Laboratory.

Over the years Ian has produced: 9 publications in accredited journals, 14 chapters in school textbooks, 16 unpublished learning programmes to support teachers apply the new curriculum in the classroom. 4 conference proceedings, 44 papers at conferences, and 12 workshops at conferences.

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