Graduate Student Links Dino Eggshells and Ancient Climates

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Shaena Montanari, a graduate student in the Museum’s Richard Gilder Graduate School, has carried out fieldwork in Mongolia’s Gobi Desert. Photo courtesy of Shaena Montanari. 

Fourth-year Richard Gilder Graduate School (RGGS) doctoral student Shaena Montanari uses her geology training and subtle clues left by dinosaurs to reconstruct the environment of Mongolia’s Gobi Desert as it was 70 million years ago. Based on an innovative approach that takes cues from the geochemistry of dinosaur eggshells, Montanari’s latest findings—that late in the Mesozoic “age of the dinosaurs” the Gobi desert was a much wetter and warmer place than today—were presented this week at a poster session of the American Geophysical Union’s Fall Meeting in San Francisco.

Montanari is a member of the inaugural 2008 RGGS class in comparative biology. In 2006, the American Museum of Natural History became the first museum in the Western Hemisphere with the authority to grant the Ph.D. degree. Montanari, who received her undergraduate degree in geological sciences from the University of North Carolina, is planning to graduate from RGGS next year.

Working with Museum paleontology curators and RGGS faculty members Mark Norell, chair of the Division of PaleontologyJohn Flynn, dean of the RGGS, and Jin Meng, Montanari focuses on finding new methods to reconstruct the paleobiology and paleoecology of extinct organisms. In addition to having access to the Museum’s unparalleled paleontology collections, Montanari has experienced the Gobi desert firsthand during field expeditions with Museum researchers.

You can read more about her latest findings on GeoSpace, an Earth and space science blog run by the American Geophysical Union.