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PaleoFest 2017- Speaker Biographies

Arvid Aase

Arvid for Burpee Museum

Arvid has been a rock hound since grade school in eastern Montana where he collected petrified wood and Montana moss agate along the Yellowstone River. Trilobites became a passion after meeting the Gunther family in Brigham City, Utah in 1989. He received his bachelor’s degree in geology from Brigham Young University and a master’s degree in geology with an emphasis on invertebrate paleontology from the University of Kansas. His thesis topic was interpreting the life habits of a genus of Ordovician trilobite (Pliomeridae) from Utah. To fund college he worked as a quarrier in fossil fish quarries near Kemmerer, Wyoming.  This experience prepared him for a seasonal position at Fossil Butte National Monument in 1995 then the permanent Curator/Paleontologist position in the spring of 1999. During the last 18 years he has helped expand the park’s exhibits from 80 fossils to nearly 400, created a business-based fossil hunt in the local community, and facilitated numerous research projects on the geology and paleontology of Fossil Lake.
He has been happily married for 24 years, and collects kids (5 total), animals (11 snakes, tortoises (two), skinks (one), dogs (one), goldfish (six) and Placostomus (two), as well as antique bottles, rocks, succulents, minerals, fossils, coins, and sundry other things.

Victoria Arbour, Ph.D.

Dr. Arbour joined the Evans Lab at the Royal Ontario Museum and University of Toronto in 2016 as an NSERC Postdoctoral Fellow, after completing a postdoctoral appointment in the Zanno Lab at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and North Carolina State University. Her work on ankylosaurs has included work on the biomechanics of tail clubbing, the evolution of tail weaponry, and the biodiversity and biogeography of this charismatic group of dinosaurs. She has also been very fortunate to share these new discoveries with many different audiences around the world through her work on the massive open online course Dino 101, and as a scientific consultant on the feature film Walking with Dinosaurs 3D and the upcoming video game Saurian.

Robert Boessenecker, Ph.D.


Robert (Bobby) Boessenecker is a paleontologist, lecturer, and Director of Marine Vertebrate Research at the College of Charleston and Mace Brown Museum of Natural History at the College of Charleston in Charleston, South Carolina. He received his B.S. And M.S. from Montana State University in 2008 and 2011 (respectively) and studied at University of Otago in New Zealand where he received his Ph.D. (2015). Bobby grew up in Northern California, an area with a depauperate dinosaur record but a hot spot for Miocene and Pliocene marine vertebrates – collecting shark teeth as a high school student propelled him into studying the less well-known marine mammals which occur in the same deposits. He initially started field-based study of marine vertebrate assemblages from the Miocene-Pliocene Purisima Formation exposed near Santa Cruz, California – exploring the Northern California coastline for poorly-documented fossils of sharks, bony fish, sea birds, fur seals, walruses, sea cows, dolphins, porpoises, and baleen whales. This work expanded into a broader study of Plio-Pleistocene faunal change and investigation of the evolution and emergence of the modern marine mammal fauna in the North Pacific. His doctoral studies focused on much older baleen whales (Mysticeti) from the Oligocene of New Zealand, belonging in the family Eomysticetidae. These whales were the earliest obligate filter feeding baleen whales, with highly elongated snouts, and a rack of baleen with a few peg-like teeth in front. This research revealed the skeletal anatomy of the best-known early baleen whales, in addition to aspects of growth, feeding behavior, and the evolution of filter feeding in Mysticeti.

Sarah Boessenecker

Sarah Boessenecker CCNHM

Sarah Boessenecker is a paleontologist and Collections Manager at the Mace Brown Museum of Natural History at the College of Charleston, in Charleston, South Carolina. She grew up in Billings, Montana, and studied paleontology at Montana State University in Bozeman, Montana. While a freshman at MSU, she volunteered at the preparation lab at the Museum of the Rockies, and was ultimately hired to work in the collections of MOR, curating osteological collections, as well as assisting with paleohistological work. After finishing up at MSU she moved to California and then New Zealand, and now lives in Charleston, South Carolina. Her research interests deal with Pleistocene terrestrial artiodactyls, as well as Neogene cetaceans, of which there are plenty to work on. Interests outside of paleontology include running, hiking, camping, beachcombing, and road trips to crazy out of the way tourist traps with her husband (and sometimes cat).

Allison Bormet

Allison Bormet 1
As a Ph.D. Candidate in Indiana University's Department of Geology, Allison's research unites paleontological and modern ecological data to analyze the relationship between environmental change and morphological features (i.e. body shape) in mammals. Understanding how environment affects skeletal shape is critically important to interpreting how human-facilitated climate change will affect biodiversity in the future. Specifically, she has been analyzing the link between the ruminant (e.g. true deer, antelope, giraffe, pronghorn, mice deer, & musk deer) foot structure and the type of ground they walk upon. In addition to writing her dissertation, she is teaching a Dinosaur Evolution & Extinction course at Columbia College Chicago this spring semester, and enjoys coloring, crocheting and watching scary movies in her spare time.

Thomas Clements


Thomas Clements is an English palaeontologist based at the University of Leicester. His research focuses on the science of taphonomy – understanding the physical and chemical process that plants and animals must undergo to become fossils.

His main research focuses on the 300 million year old Mazon Creek fossil bed, found in Illinois, USA. This site is famous because it preserves a variety of creatures in concretions of a mineral called siderite. Interestingly these animals preserve soft tissues that normally rot away incredibly quickly such as skin, internal organs and even pigmentation. By using experiments to understand the role of decay, Thomas’ work will try to explain what the environmental conditions were like when these animals were buried many millions of years ago.

Thomas was the lead on the team that recently identified for the first time that the famous state fossil of Illinois, the Tully Monster (Tullimonstrum gregarium), was a member of the vertebrates by looking at the microscopic pigment granules in its eyes.

His other scientific interests are studying fossil cephalopods (octopus, cuttlefish and squid). His work looks to understand their complex evolutionary history and why they have such a poor fossil record by rotting them in laboratory. It’s utterly disgusting but has led to some exciting discoveries!

Susan Drymala

Carnufex Interiew

Susan is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Biological Sciences at North Carolina State University. She received a Masters degree in Zoology from NC State in 2015 and a B.S. degree in Geology from the University of Maryland in 2009. Her research focuses on the early evolution, anatomy, and ecology of paracrocodylomorphs, a diverse group of primarily carnivorous animals that originated in the Triassic Period and include living crocodylians. Her most notable research has been on one of the largest carnivores of its time, Carnufex carolinensis (the “Carolina Butcher”). Most of her work focuses on animals that lived in the Triassic, especially along the east coast. In addition to field work in the Triassic rocks of North Carolina, Susan has also spent summers doing work in both the Triassic and Cretaceous strata of the American west.

Eugenia Gold, Ph.D.

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Dr. Gold did her undergraduate work at University of Maryland where she earned a BS in Biology and a BS in Geology. She earned a M.S. in Geoscience from the University of Iowa in 2011. Dr. Gold went on to complete a Ph.D. in Comparative Biology at the Richard Gilder Graduate School at the American Museum of Natural History. Currently, she is instructing first year medical students in Human Anatomy at Stony Brook University.

She is interested in understanding how flight evolved in dinosaurs, specifically through changes in brain shape and function. Dr. Gold uses CT and PET technology to understand changes in brain shape and how birds use their brains during flight.

David Grossnickle

David Grossnickle

After graduating from DePauw University with a degree in biology, David taught high school biology for several years. He eventually returned to college and received a master’s degree from Indiana University in 2013. He is currently a fourth-year PhD candidate at the University of Chicago, studying early mammal evolution and paleontology through the Committee on Evolutionary Biology program. His research combines fossil and modern mammal data to test hypotheses about the biology and macroevolution of early mammals. He loves fieldwork, playing sports, hanging out at the local coffee shop, and watching Bob’s Burgers.    

Rex Hanger, Ph.D.

Rex Hanger

Growing up as an “Army brat”, Dr. Hanger’s family moved almost every year from one military base to another for his father’s career. By happenstance, in every location, he was always near localities where he could collect rocks and fossils outside, and so has known he wanted to be a geologist/paleontologist since elementary school. His professional training began in the South at Texas A&M University where he received his B.S and M.S. degrees in Geology. Dr. Hanger then moved West, where he completed his Ph.D. in Paleontology at the University of California at Berkeley, which was followed by a cross-country trip back East for a post-doc in Paleobiology at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. To complete his tour of all four geographic quadrants of the lower 48, he then traveled North and did a one-year Visiting Professorship at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and finally landed his tenured position at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, where he’s taught now for 16 years. Dr. Hanger’s research interests are in Late Paleozoic and Cretaceous marine invertebrate fossils and Recent freshwater gastropods, but he also has a fondness for the Ordovician of the Upper Midwest.

Thomas Holtz, Ph.D.


Thomas R. Holtz, Jr. is Principal Lecturer in Vertebrate Paleontology at the Department of Geology, University of Maryland, College Park. He is also a Research Associate of the Department of Paleobiology of the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History. His research focuses on the origin, evolution, adaptations, and behavior of carnivorous dinosaurs, and especially of tyrannosauroids (Tyrannosaurus rex and its kin). Holtz received his Ph.D. at Yale University under John Ostrom in 1992. He is currently working with paleontologists at the Burpee, the Smithsonian, and the Carnegie in describing new material of the oviraptorosaur dinosaur Anzu.

In addition to his dinosaur research, Holtz has been active in scientific outreach. He has been a consultant on museum exhibits around the world, and on numerous documentaries. He is the author of the award-winning Dinosaurs: The Most Complete, Up-To-Date Encyclopedia for Dinosaur Lovers of All Ages (Random House).

Mark Loewen, Ph.D.

Mark Loewen 2

Mark Loewen holds a M.Sc. in paleontology from Loma Linda University and a Ph.D. in Geology from the University of Utah.  He specializes in research on Jurassic and Cretaceous dinosaurs with an emphasis on the evolution and dispersal of meat eating, armored and horned dinosaurs; like Allosaurus, Tyrannosaurus, Ankylosaurus and Triceratops.  He is currently Associate Professor Lecturer in the department of Geology and Geophysics at the University of Utah and teaches the popular World of Dinosaurs and Natural Disasters classes.  He conducts research on dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum of Utah where he is a Resident Research Associate. He is also a research associate at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and the Evolutionary Studies Institute at the University of the Witwatersrand.

Maria Antonieta Lorente, Ph.D.

Lorente and reptile

Dr. María Antonieta Lorente is a certified petroleum geologist, expert in stratigraphy and biostratigraphy, lecturer, and international consultant. She received her Geological Engineering and MSc in Sedimentary Geology degrees from the Central University Venezuela and her PhD from the University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Her expertise in paleontology applied to hydrocarbon exploration, with a specialization in palynology and multidisciplinary team’s management, was developed through a 35-year career that began in the Venezuelan Oil Industry, with her role as a palynologist, later becoming Head of Geological Laboratories and Stratigraphy Leader. She was also a Historical Geology, Paleontology, Advanced Stratigraphy and Applied Biostratigraphy lecturer at the Central University in Caracas for many years. For the last 12 years, she has worked as an International Consultant in Geology, Palynology and Environmental Sciences. Currently she is the Stratigraphic Services Manager at ALS Reservoir Laboratories in Houston.

She was President of the Venezuelan Geological Society, International Councilor at SEPM Board of Directors and Vice President of the International Liaison and the International Regions AAPG Committees. Currently she is a member of GSA, SEPM, AAPG, AASP and HGS. She is a published author, with over 1000 references to her publications.

Peter Makovicky, Ph.D.


Peter Makovicky is Associate Curator for Dinosaurs at the Field Museum. His research focuses on understanding the diversity and evolutionary history of theropod and ceratopsian dinosaurs. He has described over a dozen new dinosaur species, examined how birds evolved from theropods, studied body size and growth in tyrannosaurs, and researched the evolution of diets in dinosaurs and early birds. Peter’s fieldwork program covers four continents and he has been on expeditions to the US, China, Argentina, India, and Antarctica.

Julia McHugh, Ph.D.

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Julia McHugh is the Curator of Paleontology at the Museums of Western Colorado, as well as an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Geology at Colorado Mesa University. She has previously worked as a paleontology research assistant at Oklahoma State University-Center for Health Sciences, as an instructor for the OSU-Tulsa chapter of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, and as a research associate at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History. Her research is focused on the adaptive responses of animals to their environments, particularly large-scale extinction events and ecological competition, as well as investigating the effects of ontogeny on morphological variation in the fossil record. She earned a B.A. in Geology from Hanover College, a M.S. in Geosciences from Idaho State University, and a Ph.D. in Geoscience from The University of Iowa. 

Joseph Peterson, Ph.D.

Peterson CLDQ Pic

A native of the Rockford, IL area, Joseph Peterson started as a volunteer at the Burpee Museum in 1998. After graduating high school, he went on to receive his bachelors degree in Geology from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale in 2004, and his masters and doctorate in Geology from Northern Illinois University in 2010. Dr. Peterson studies the processes involved in vertebrate fossil preservation and dinosaur paleobiology. He has been a faculty member in the Department of Geology at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh since 2011.

Dr. Peterson has been excavating the famous Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry of the Late Jurassic of Utah since 2012 and has been utilizing 3D mapping methods and geochemistry to reconstruct the events that lead to the largest concentration of meat-eating dinosaurs in the world.

Karen Poole, Ph.D.

Karen Poole

Karen Poole is a postdoctoral researcher at Stony Brook University, where she also teaches human anatomy. She earned her PhD from George Washington University, where she spent her time trotting the globe to visit museum collections. Her fascination with paleontology began at an early age, and was deepened by repeated visits to the Smithsonian Museum and, after moving out west, by volunteering with the Mesa Southwest Museum (now the Arizona Museum of Natural HIstory). She has participated in field work across the western US, as well as localities in China and South Africa.

John Scannella, Ph.D.

John Scannella photo with Triceratops

John Scannella received his Ph.D. in Earth Sciences at Montana State University, where he studied the growth and evolution of the famous horned dinosaur Triceratops. He is currently the Interim Curator of Paleontology at the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Montana.

Eric Snively, Ph.D.

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Dr. Eric Snively is a professor of Biology at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. He obtained post-graduate degrees in vertebrate paleontology with Anthony Russell at the University of Calgary, and biomedical engineering with John Cotton at Ohio University. Eric worked as a post-doc with Aaron Bauer at Villanova, Phil Currie and Eva Koppelhus at the University of Alberta, and Lawrence Witmer at Ohio University.  His graduate students investigate ecology of coyotes and foxes, and bite mechanics of whales and herbivorous mammals.

Katie Tremaine


Katie was born and raised in Rockford, and began an internship at Burpee in 2004.  Katie obtained her Associate in Science from Rock Valley College in 2006 and her Bachelor of Science from Northern Illinois University in 2011. She has worked at Burpee in one capacity or another ever since- in many ways, she’s never left! However, she began a Masters program under Jack Horner in 2012 and will be finishing this year. Katie’s Masters program focuses on Triceratops and taphonomy, but her main interests lie in dinosaur ontogeny and histology. She also knits ammonites- you can bid on one at the PaleoFest auction!