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The HWS Update

Hunting Dinosaurs on Four Continents

Alumnus Joins President’s Forum Series

As a young paleontologist, Matt Lamanna ’97 is on the fast track. Just three years after graduating from Hobart, he traveled to the Sahara Desert with a team that uncovered one of the largest animals ever to walk the earth – the giant sauropod dinosaur Paralititan stromeri. The discovery of this long-necked plant eater, with a length of 80-plus feet and weighing in at nearly 50 tons, was hailed as one of the most significant paleontological finds of recent history. The expedition was funded by the A&E network and resulted in Lamanna’s being featured in a two-hour documentary, “The Lost Dinosaurs of Egypt, and a companion book by the same title published by Random House.

Since then, Lamanna’s fieldwork has taken him to Asia, where he recently made a big splash as part of a team that discovered a primitive amphibious bird in the mountains of northwestern China. The young scientist’s field work also has included multiple expeditions to the southern end of South America and the western United States. This summer he plans to begin research on a fifth continent as well, when he joins his colleague Steve Salisbury on a dig in the remote Australian outback. Through this work, Lamanna has developed a reputation as a pivotal contributor to the understanding of how dinosaurs and their environments evolved through time.

His extraordinary success has landed Lamanna one of the top jobs in his profession as the assistant curator of vertebrate paleontology at Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh.

On Monday, March 5, this young scientist will return to his alma mater to join the President’s Forum Series and give a talk titled “Hunting Dinosaurs on Four Continents at 7:30 p.m. in Albright auditorium — a change from the earlier site.

“Matt Lamanna oversees one of the top five dinosaur collections in the world and has been a part of paleontological discoveries that will now be included in the history books. We’re excited to bring him back to share the stories of his achievement with current students and members of the community, said President Mark D. Gearan, host of the series.

In his talk, Lamanna is expected to highlight his discoveries, sharing photos of some of the new species of dinosaurs and fossil birds that he and his colleagues have unearthed in China, Argentina, and Egypt, as well as discuss his plans for the summer in Australia.

In addition to his field work and duties as assistant curator, Lamanna is the lead scientific advisor on Dinosaurs in Their World, the Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s forthcoming exhibit that will nearly triple the size of the Museum’s former Dinosaur Hall. Scheduled to open in the fall, this exhibit will range over 25,552 square feet, enough space to display at least 15 mounted, mostly original dinosaur skeletons and more than 200 other ancient plants and animals in a way that captures them in their habitats as never before.

Among his peers, Lamanna is described as hard working, imaginative, and innovative.

“You can train almost anyone to learn how to find fossils. But beyond that skill is the ability to address questions in new ways, said Chris Beard, Carnegie Museum of Natural History curator of vertebrate paleontology and section head. “Matt has the ability to put a single fossilized specimen in the big picture and offer new insight on how dinosaurs evolved and how life on Earth changed through time.

Lamanna graduated with high honors in biology and geoscience from Hobart, and went on to graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied dinosaur paleontology in the Department of Earth and Environmental Science and earned a master of science and his Ph.D.

A story previewing his talk was printed in the Sunday, March 4 issue of the Finger Lakes Times. Read Hobart alum to talk about dinosaurs.