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LuisDr. Luis Chiappe

Director/Curator, Dinosaur Institute, NHM

My research is centered around the evolution of archosaurs, a group of reptiles that includes crocodiles, pterosaurs (flying reptiles), and dinosaurs and their descendants, the birds, fossils of which are exceptionally well-represented in the Mesozoic rocks of China. My work takes me all over the world and very frequently to China, and is strongly based on field work. Over the last 20 years, I have conducted field work in the United States, Argentina, Mongolia, China, and Kazakhstan. One of the core programs of my research is the origin and early evolution of birds, an area of paleontological research that has significantly benefited from a wealth of fossils recently unearthed in China. I have established lasting research partnerships with a number of institutions in China, including Beijing’s Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthro-pology, and Dalian’s Natural History Museum. Together with my students and associates I have documented the existence of numerous species of Mesozoic birds and their dinosaurian predecessors, and provided detailed analyses of their genealogical relationships. The foundation provided by these genealogical studies has led to inferences about the evolution of many attributes of birds, and has helped to decipher the evolutionary steps taken between the dinosaurian forerunners of early birds and their modern counterparts. I am also an Adjunct Professor at USC and a Fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim and the Alexander Humboldt foundations. In addition, I lead the NHM’s Dinosaur Institute—you can learn about the Dinosaur Institute’s mission and activities at http://dinosaurs.nhm.org.

BottjerDr. David Bottjer

Professor of Earth Sciences and Biological Sciences, USC

I made my first trip to China in 1987 to work on the famous Meishan section of the Permian-Triassic boundary. Since then I have continued my work on the end-Permian mass extinction in China and around the globe. I am a geobiologist and have worked broadly on organism-sediment interactions and the ecological history of life. My current research focuses on two broad paleobio-logical questions: the first includes a multidisciplinary approach to understanding the paleobiology and paleoecology of early metazoan life, with field work conducted in eastern California, Nevada, and China; the second emphasizes obtaining a detailed understanding of the paleoecology of mass extinctions and their biotic recoveries during the mid-Phanerozoic, with extensive work on Permian, Triassic and Jurassic rocks throughout western North America as well as Europe, Japan and China. For the past ten years I have been traveling to China to work on the incredible Early Cambrian Chengjiang biota as well as the early animal fossils of the Precambrian Doushantuo Formation. This has led to a lot of wonderful collaborations along the way, particularly with Junyuan Chen of the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Paleontology (Academia Sinica) and Eric Davidson at Caltech. I came to USC in 1979 where I am now Professor and Chair of Earth Sciences and Professor of Biological Sciences. I am a Research Associate at the NHM, one of the Editors-in-Chief of the journal Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, and a past President of The Paleontological Society.

Research Associates:

XiaomingXiaoming Wang

Curator, Department of Vertebrate Paleontology, NHM xwang@nhm.org

Most of my research is focused on various aspects of Chinese vertebrate paleontology. I am involved in numerous collaborative projects with my colleagues at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing. Each year I lead expeditions to the Tibetan Plateau and Inner Mongolia in search of vertebrate fossils from the Cenozoic Era. These field studies attempt to establish biodiversity in the ancient world, to learn about the age of the fossils collected, to decipher their climatic implications in the late Cenozoic, and to understand animal dispersal between different regions or across different continents. The recent explosive growth in our knowledge of Chinese Cenozoic mammals has vastly improved our understanding of mammalian evolution in Asia, and thus I feel privileged to be able to work so actively in my native country. I am currently a Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology at the NHM.

Dr. ChuongDr. Cheng-Ming Chuong

Professor of Pathology, USC  cmchuong@usc.edu

My laboratory studies how stem cells are guided to form organs of specific size and shape. Using the ectoderm as a Rosetta stone, my laboratory learned from nature how to mold stem cells into different ectodermal organs. From these cellular and molecular studies, I have promoted the concept of "topobiology". One of the approaches we take is Evo-Devo, the evolution of novel developmental mechanisms that allows new organs to form. Since feathers represent the complex epithelial forms, the search for feather evolution brings us to the fossils of feathered dinosaurs. We now can manipulate molecular pathways to produce "proto-feathers" that mimick those found on feathered dinosaurs. I co-edited a special issue on the "Development and Evolution of Amniote Integuments" for the Journal of Experimental Zoology which includes a definition of modern feathers. I also co-authored "Fossil Birds from China" with Dr. Lian Hai Hou. In 2008, I was elected as an Academician of the prestigious Academia Sinica, the equivalent of the National Academy in Taiwan.

Graduate Students:

Jing Mai O'Connor


My fascination with paleontology comes from the concept of evolution itself, but when I was an undergraduate, the amazing discoveries of feathered dinosaurs from China caught my attention and captivated me. When I decided to pursue paleontology, my goal became to work on Chinese fossils. As an undergraduate, I worked in Inner Mongolia, China on a Miocene mustelid—a weasel-like carnivore—with Dr. Xiaoming Wang. In graduate school, I began work on Enantiornithes under the guidance of Dr. Luis Chiappe. The Enantiornithes is a group of Mesozoic birds that, while global in distribution, are found in China in vast numbers. For my research I travel to China twice a year, where I have seen famous field localities, conducted field work, attended international conferences, and visited museums large and small. I spent the 2007-2008 academic year living in China doing research in museums in Beijing and Dalian. The rapidly growing Chinese collections represent the most exciting place in the world to be currently studying paleontology. The way we think about Enantiornithines continues to change with each new amazing discovery from China, such as the recently described Pengornis, which doubled the known size range for Early Cretaceous Enantiornithines! I hope to continue conducting research in China throughout my career and look forward to what is unearthed next.

Jack Tseng


My research focuses on the functional morphology of large mammalian carnivores in China and North America. I am studying under the guidance of Dr. Xiaoming Wang and Dr. Jill McNitt-Gray (USC). Born in Taiwan, I moved to the United States at an early age, and lived in San Jose, California. I graduated with a B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley in 2004. I entered graduate school at USC in 2005, and since then I have participated in four field expeditions in China, specifically Inner Mongolia, Qinghai Province, and Tibet. I am currently studying abroad at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing with support from a Fulbright Fellowship.