Marine mammal paleobiologist Dr. Nicholas Pyenson arrived in Sitka as our first Scientist in Residency Fellow of 2017, here from January 27th to February 24th. Dr. Pyenson is the curator of fossil marine mammals at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History, in Washington, D.C. In this last month he was awarded a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the highest honor bestowed by the United States Government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers.
Dr. Pyenson’s research focuses around the evolution and ecology of marine tetrapods such as whales, sea cows, and sea otters. In particular, he is interested in understanding the causes and mechanics of the major ecological events throughout geologic history where animal groups have transitioned from life on land to life in the ocean. Many of the mammals that Nick studies are important links in the food web of Southeast Alaska’s waters (or have been in the past). During his Fellowship in Sitka, Nick will be sharing his research as well as his enthusiasm for integrating digital tools and art with paleoscience.
He will be giving a public talk as part of the UAS Natural History Seminar series entitled “What does the deep history of whales tell us about the evolution of the oceans?” on Feb 9th, 7:30 pm UAS room 229.