Bios for “The David H. Koch Hall of Fossils—Deep Time”

June 3, 2019
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Kirk Johnson, Sant Director, National Museum of Natural History

Kirk Johnson is the Sant Director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History where he oversees the world’s largest natural history collection. The museum hosts more than 5 million visitors each year. In 2018, its scientists published 812 scientific research papers and named 309 new species. Before his arrival at the Smithsonian in 2012, Johnson was a paleontologist at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science where he led expeditions in 18 states and 11 countries. His research focuses on fossil plants and the extinction of the dinosaurs. In 2011, he led an ice age excavation near Snowmass Village in Colorado that recovered parts of more than 50 mastodon skeletons. His recent documentaries include Making North America and The Great Yellowstone Thaw, both of which aired on PBS channels. He is presently working on Polar Extremes, a documentary about the ancient climate of the Arctic and Antarctic. His latest book, Cruisin’ the Fossil Coastline, The Travels of an Artist and a Scientist Along the Shores of the Prehistoric Pacific, explores the deep history of the West Coast from California to Alaska. Johnson is originally from Bellevue, Washington, has a bachelor’s degree from Amherst College, a master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and a doctorate in geology and paleobotany from Yale University.

Anna “Kay” Behrensmeyer, Curator of Fossil Vertebrates, National Museum of
Natural History

Anna “Kay” Behrensmeyer is the curator of fossil vertebrates at the museum, lead scientist for the Deep Time Initiative and a member of the core team for the “David H. Koch Hall of Fossils—Deep Time.” Behrensmeyer’s research focuses on understanding the paleontology of land environments over the history of life on Earth, authoring over 160 scientific publications and six edited books over her career. She studies “taphonomy”—how animals and plants become fossils—and how this affects what people can learn about ancient ecosystems. She has worked on fossil deposits from the Permian to the Pleistocene (300 million years ago to the present) with a focus on the past 20 million years in Pakistan and East Africa. Her field expeditions have uncovered new fossils and geological evidence in Africa, North America and Pakistan. She is the co-director of the Evolution of Terrestrial Ecosystems Program at the museum and has won several awards for research excellence, including the G.K. Warren Prize from the National Academy of Sciences in 2019. She has a bachelor’s degree from Washington University, St. Louis and a doctorate in vertebrate paleontology from Harvard University.

Amy Bolton, Deep Time Education and Outreach Manager, National Museum of
Natural History

Amy Bolton is the lead educator for “The David H. Koch Hall of Fossils—Deep Time,” overseeing the integration of exhibition content into educational programming in the museum, community and online. She also serves as the educator on the exhibition core team, integrating best practices in informal science learning into the hall’s exhibits and displays. She leads a team that develops innovative educational activities, especially through the use of technology and the communication of complex subjects such as evolution and climate change. Before her role in the exhibition, Bolton was the lead educator on other major projects in the museum’s Office of Education and Outreach for the past 15 years, including the design and development of Q?rius, the Coralyn W. Whitney Science Education Center. Before joining the museum, she spent 14 years as a producer and writer of educational multimedia products in science and technology, history, the arts and K–12 teacher professional development in the Washington, D.C., region. She has a masters of education from George Mason University and holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Delaware.

Matthew Carrano, Curator of Dinosauria, National Museum of Natural History

Matthew Carrano decided to become a paleontologist after reading a dinosaur book in the second grade. He is lead curator and a member of the core team for the “David H. Koch Hall of Fossils—Deep Time” and has served as the curator of Dinosauria at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History since 2003, where his research focuses on dinosaur anatomy, evolution and paleoecology. He has led fossil-collecting expeditions from Montana and Wyoming to Madagascar, Chile and Zimbabwe, adding thousands of specimens to the museum’s collections. Before working at the Smithsonian, he taught human anatomy at Stony Brook University. Carrano has published dozens of scientific papers and co-edited the book Amniote Paleobiology (University of Chicago Press, 2006) and the journal Paleobiology. He has served on the boards of the Jurassic Foundation, the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, the Paleontological Society and the Paleobiology Database. At the Smithsonian, he has been involved in a variety of outreach, education and exhibition projects, including “Dinosaurs in Our Backyard,” the first Smithsonian exhibit to feature fossils from the Washington, D.C., region. Carrano received his bachelor’s degree from Brown University as well as a master’s degree and doctorate in organismal biology and anatomy at the University of Chicago.

Siobhan Starrs, Exhibition Project Manager, National Museum of Natural History

Siobhan Starrs is a member of “The David H. Koch Hall of Fossils—Deep Time” core team and a project manager and exhibition developer at the museum. She led the exhibition development (creative lead) and project management for “The David H. Koch Hall of Fossils—Deep Time.” Since joining the Smithsonian in 2000, Starrs has played many roles including web designer, multimedia designer, writer/editor, researcher and project leader. She currently leads exhibition teams providing creative direction and ensuring that projects meet goals and objectives while staying within budget, scope and schedule. She works with interdisciplinary colleagues across the Smithsonian and from external organizations to develop and share best practices in exhibition development. Starrs actively participates in master planning and strategic planning initiatives at the museum and leads project teams of all sizes. Starrs has a bachelor’s degree from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and a master’s degree in museum studies from George Washington University.

Scott L. Wing, Curator of Fossil Plants, National Museum of Natural History

Scott L. Wing was born in New Orleans and raised there and in Durham, North Carolina. He credits his childhood interest in biology to parents who encouraged him to play in the mud and brought him plastic dinosaurs and books about fossils. He first experienced the wonder of geology and fossils on a paleontological expedition to Wyoming the summer before he started college at Yale University, where he later also attended graduate school. He came to know the Smithsonian and its collections of fossil plants during a pre-doctoral fellowship in 1980. After finishing his doctorate, Wing worked briefly as a geologist for the U.S. Geological Survey before coming to the Smithsonian as a curator of fossil plants in 1984. Wing’s research focuses on fossil plants, with an emphasis on how climate has changed in the past and how ecosystems have responded to climate change. He has long worked to uncover the causes and effects of a sudden global warming event that occurred 56 million years ago, known as the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum. The Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum has many similarities to current, human-caused changes in the atmosphere and climate. Wing has also researched the deep-time origins of tropical rainforests and the paleoecology of flowering plants during the last part of the age of dinosaurs. Since 2012, he has been a member of the core team for “The David H. Koch Hall of Fossils—Deep Time.”

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