Michael J. Novacek

Curator, Division of Paleontology

Professor, Richard Gilder Graduate School



  • University California, Berkeley, Ph.D., 1978
  • San Diego University, M.A., 1973
  • University of California, Los Angeles, A.B., 1971

Research Interests

Dr. Novacek's studies concern patterns of evolution and relationships among organisms, particularly mammals. His interests have ranged from paleontological evidence to new data on DNA sequences. He has led paleontological expeditions to Baja California, Mexico; the Andes Mountains of Chile; and the Yemen Arab Republic in search of fossil mammals and dinosaurs. He also is one of the team leaders of the joint American Museum of Natural History/Mongolian Academy of Sciences ongoing expeditions to the Gobi Desert, begun in 1990. The Mongolian expeditions marked the first return of a Western scientific team to the country in over 60 years and have received worldwide scientific and public attention for their spectacular findings. In 1993, Dr. Novacek was one of the discoverers of the Gobi's Ukhaa Tolgod, the richest Cretaceous fossil vertebrate site in the world. In 1999, he started a series of expeditions to Patagonia, Argentina, to research dinosaurs, mammals, and other fossils.Dr. Novacek was instrumental in establishing the Museum's Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, Institute for Comparative Genomics, and  research program in astrophysics.


Division of Paleontology

Richard Gilder Graduate School


Goldberg, S.L., M.J. Novacek, and G. Alayón García. 2017. The history of scientific relations between Cuba and the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH): 160 years of collecting and collaborating (1857–2017) = La historia de las relaciones científicas entre Cuba y el American Museum of Natural History (AMNH): 160 años de colección y colaboración (1857–2017). New York: American Museum of Natural History. 132 pp.

Velazco, P.M., A.J. Buczek, and M.J. Novacek. 2017. Two new tritylodontids (Synapsida, Cynodontia, Mammaliamorpha) from the Upper Jurassic, southwestern Mongolia. American Museum Novitates 3874: 1–35.

Velazco, P.M., and M.J. Novacek. 2016. Systematics of the genus Palaeictops Matthew, 1899 (Mammalia: Leptictidae), with the description of two new species from the Middle Eocene of Utah and Wyoming. American Museum Novitates 3867: 1–42.

Rougier, G. W., B.M. Davies, and M. J. Novacek. 2015. A deltatheroidan mammal from the Upper Cretaceous Baynshiree Formation, eastern Mongolia. Cretaceous Research 52, 167-177.

Novacek, M. J.  2014. Prehistory’s Brilliant Future. New York Times Sunday Review, Opinion. November 8, 2014.

O’Leary, M. A., J. I. Bloch, J. J. Flynn, T.  J. Gaudin, A. Giallombardo, N. P. Giannini, S. L. Goldberg, B. P. Kraatz, Z-X. Luo, J. Meng, X. Ni, M. J. Novacek, F. A. Perini, Z. Randall, G. W. Rougier, E. J. Sargis, M. T. Silcox, N. B. Simmons, M. Spaulding, P. M. Velazco, M. Weksler, J. R. Wible, A. L. Cirranello.  2013. The placental mammal ancestor and the post-KPg radiation of placentals. Science 339:662-667.

Wible, J. R. , G. W. Rougier, M. J. Novacek, and R. J. Asher. 2009. The eutherian mammal  Maelestes gobiensis from the Late Cretaceous of Mongolia and the phylogeny of Cretaceous Eutheria. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 327:1-123.

Novacek, M. J. 2008. Engaging the Public on Biodiversity Issues. Proc. National Acad. Sciences, USA 105: 11562-11578.

Dingus, L., D. B. Loope, D. Dashzeveg, C. C. Swisher III, C. Minjin, M. J. Novacek, and M. A. Norell. 2008. The geology of Ukhaa Tolgod (Djadokhta Formation, Upper Cretaceous, Nemegt Basin, Mongolia. American Museum Novitates 3616:1-40.

Novacek, M. J. 2007. Terra: Our 100-Million Ecosystem – and the Threats That Now Put it at Risk.  2007 Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 428 p.

Wible, J. R., G. W. Rougier, M. J. Novacek, and R. J. Asher. 2007. Cretaceous Eutherians and Laurasian origin for placental mammals near K/T boundary. Nature 447:1003 -1006.

Asher, R. J., Meng, J., J. R. Wible, M. C. McKenna, G. W. Rougier, D. Dashzeveg, and M. J. Novacek. 2005. Stem Lagomorpha and the antiquity of Glires. Science 307:1091-1094.

Falkowski, P. G., M. E. Katz, A. J. Milligan, K. Fennel, B. S. Cramer, M. P. Aubry, R. A. Berner, M. J. Novacek, and W. M. Zapol. 2005. The Rise of oxygen over the past 205 million years and the evolution of large placental mammals. Science 309:2202-2204. 

Teaching Experience

Faculty Appointments

  • Adjunct, Center for Environmental Research and Conservation, Columbia University, 1995-present
  • Adjunct Professor, Dept. of Biology, CUNY, 1987-present
  • Adjunct Professor, San Diego State University, 1982-present

Lecturer (1976-1977), Assistant (1977-1979), Associate (1979-1982) Professor,

Department of Zoology, San Diego State University 

Courses Taught

Graduate Advisees

  • Andres Giallombardo, Columbia University
  • Sheri Gabbert, University of Denver
  • Ines Horowitz, UCLA

Graduate Committees

  • Minjin Bolortsetseg, CUNY
  • Jason Mussel, Johns Hopkins
  • Paul Vrana, Columbia University
  • Andrew Wyss, Columbia University
  • Gina Gould, Columbia University