In 2020, our lineup of guest speakers explored the extinction of dinosaurs. See a synopsis of each lecture and watch the recorded videos below.
Can't get enough DinoFest? Explore past years' themes and speakers here.
The last one million years of the reign of dinosaurs was marked by changes in sea level, the eruption of giant volcanic igneous provinces in India, and abruptly ended 66 million years ago when a 6-mile wide asteroid slammed into Earth. The tempo (gradual vs. catastrophic) and cause(s) of Earth's last mass extinction event has been fiercely debated. Dr. Lyson will integrate micro vertebrates, dinosaur skeletons, plants, and pollen data from the last one million years of the Age of Reptiles into a high resolution geologic framework to look at biotic patterns leading up to Earth's darkest hour. See Tyler's complete speaker bio here.
The San Juan Basin, northwestern New Mexico preserves one of the few records of the Cretaceous-Paleogene transition preserved outside of the northern Great Plains region. Dr. Williamson will discuss how the basin contains both the latest Cretaceous Dinosaurs and arguably the best record of the rise of mammals during the first four million years of the Cenozoic. See Thomas' complete speaker bio here.
Dinosaurs and other charismatic fauna capture our attention, but in order to know something about ancient ecosystems we need to understand more about the landscape around them. Which plant species were around surfing the Cretaceous Period, and which outlived the non-avian dinosaurs? By looking for evidence of ancient forests we can reconstruct past climate and imagine a more complete prehistoric world. See Paige's complete speaker bio here.
Crocodylomorphs, the extinct relatives of living crocodiles, alligators, and gharials, display a range of ecologies through their evolutionary history, but especially during the Cretaceous Period. Despite this diversity, living crocodilians are all semiaquatic ambush predators. Dr. Melstrom will discuss how understanding patterns of who perished through the end-Cretaceous mass extinction may shed light on why this group continues to be successful today, but ecologically limited. See Keegan's complete speaker bio here.
It has long been suggested that our hominin ancestors drove the extinctions of Africa's largest mammals over the last two million years. Dr. Faith will evaluate such hypotheses through exploration of eastern African paleontological, archaeological, and paleoenvironmental data. The timing and pattern of megaherbivore extinctions argues against hominin impacts, and highlights the important role of climate-driven ecosystem change in Africa's extinctions. See Tyler's complete speaker bio here.
Dr. Clarke will review evidence for the identity of bird fossils from Antarctica as well as the ways these southern high latitude records may be key to the global understanding of the dynamics at the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary. See Julia's complete speaker bio here.
Plants have dominated the planet for 470 million years, enabling animal life on land by providing food and habitat. Dr. Bercovici will explore how forests were affected by the Cretaceous-Paleogene mass extinction event and see that the full story goes well beyond just the dinosaurs. See Antonie's complete speaker bio here.
Western North America preservers a remarkable terrestrial record of ancient ecosystems across the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) boundary and provides an excellent framework in which to examine short and long-term changes in climate, plants, and animals change pre and post K-Pg mass extinction. These data suggest a staged and intrinsically linked pattern of extinction and recovery of plant and associated vertebrate communities. See Ian's complete speaker bio here.
In 2016, an International Ocean Discovery Expedition drilled the Chicxulub impact crater that caused the extinction of non-avian dinosaurs. Dr. Rasmussen will discuss how these drill cores enabled the study of crater formation and the environmental effects of the impact, as well as learning more about the habitability of the crater itself and its potential as a cradle for life. See Cornelia's complete speaker bio here.