Mark Norell is curator and chair of the Division of Paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. He received his PhD in 1988 at Yale University.
Norell’s research concerns diversity through time and includes naming new dinosaurs, deciphering growth patterns in dinosaurs, studying the relationships of small carnivorous dinosaurs to modern birds, and attempting to develop new ways of looking at fossils using CT scans and imaging computers.
He has taken part in more than 50 international scientific expeditions to Patagonia, Cuba, the Chilean Andes, the Sahara, Laos, Thailand, China, West Africa, and Mongolia, where his project (now in its 22nd year) has received worldwide attention. He has published more than 150 scientific articles, and his work has been repeatedly listed among the top ten yearly science stories by Time magazine, Discover magazine, and Scientific American.
Norell has assisted in the development of the American Museum’s exhibits, including “Dinosaurs: Ancient Fossils, New Discoveries” (Spring 2005) and “The World’s Largest Dinosaurs” (Spring 2011). In 1998 he was named a New York City Leader of the Year by The New York Times.
This Provost’s Lecture, cosponsored by the Department of Ecology and Evolution, the Department of Anatomical Sciences, the Center for Communicating Science, and the Living World Lecture Series, will be held on Friday, February 10, at 7:30 pm in the Earth and Space Sciences Building, Room 001.
Abstract: The evolution of many of the characteristics of birds has been a vexing problem to biologists since an evolutionary view was adopted. The origin of features like feathers, wishbones, advanced behaviors, and flight all until recently generated more speculation than empirical science. A combination of new fossil discoveries, primarily from Asia, and the use of new instruments and methodologies has changed all this. We can now dissect many of the parts of modern birds (everything from feathers to behaviors) and understand that birds are not so special at all. Instead they are a contemporary group of living dinosaurs, whose non-avian relatives share many of their attributes.