Nick Pyenson is a vertebrate paleontologist who studies how marine life changes over incredibly long periods of time.
In the span of geologic time, many different lineages of families of reptiles and mammals independently entered the oceans, showing both common patterns and unique solutions to the challenges of living in the water. The knowledge that paleontology provides us about the natural world can help us understand the magnitude of changes to biodiversity as a result of climate changes over time.
In 2011, Nick worked with Smithsonian’s 3D digitization team to record a unique paleontological site in Chile. These images, models, and scientific findings are now available online to anyone.
Nick has participated in fieldwork all around the world to understand how and why these ecological transitions happened. He received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley.
In 2011, Smithsonian paleontologists heard rumors of a large number of marine fossils while working in the Atacama Region of Chile. This site, Cerro Ballena, or “whale hill” in Spanish, contained the skeletons of more than 40 whales and other marine mammals.