Plenary Speakers

Luis ChiappeNatural History Museum of Los Angeles Countychiappe
Luis Chiappe (Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County) will be speaking on “Assembling the bird: morphological evidence from Mesozoic fossils elucidates the evolution of the avian body plan and systems.” Luis is arguably the leading worker on the early evolution of birds, traveling the globe to both collect and study the broad diversity of fossil birds that have come to light in the past two decades. Come see his talk to hear how the increasingly clear phylogenetic resolution of avian evolution allows the biological evolution of birds to be brought into sharper focus, with new, often surprising insights into growth rates, reproduction, digestion, and of course flight.

Zerina JohansonNatural History Museum, London
johansonZerina Johanson (Natural History Museum, London) will be speaking on
“Developmental origin of the synarcual in jawed vertebrates: implications for vertebral development and fusion.” Zerina uses the full tool set of the vertebrate morphologist from classical dissections and observation of fossils to CT scanning, 3D viz, immunohistochemistry, and molecular biology. Come see her talk to hear how the development of vertebral fusion in extant cartilaginous fishes informs the interpretation of vertebral fusion in early jawed vertebrates, with implications for pathological fusion in humans and farmed salmon.

Stephanie PierceMuseum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard
pierceStephanie Pierce (Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard) will be speaking on “Form, function, and fossils: modern twists on ancient evolutionary transitions.” Stephanie’s team uses cutting-edge techniques to link the present and past to understand the functional context for key evolutionary transitions, drawing on experimentally validated functional and modeling approaches. Come see her talk to hear her team’s progress on unraveling locomotor changes in the fish-tetrapod transition, the evolution of neck flexibility in the dinosaurian transition to birds, and the origin of locomotor gaits in the transition to mammals.

Joy ReidenbergMount Sinai School of Medicine, NYC
reidenbergJoy Reidenberg (Mount Sinai School of Medicine, NYC) will be speaking on “Modifying the mammalian model: Whassup with whales?” Cetaceans present one of the great evolutionary examples of profound morphological transformation. Joy’s prodigious comparative anatomy skills have been on display not only in numerous technical articles but also in such highly acclaimed TV documentaries as “Inside Nature’s Giants” and “Born in the Wild.” Come see her talk to hear her explore why the bodies of whales differ from other animals, how they function underwater, and what we can learn from whales to benefit human medicine and technology.

Alexander VargasOntogeny and Phylogeny Lab, University of Chile
vargasAlexander O. Vargas (Ontogeny & Phylogeny Lab, University of Chile) will be speaking on “Embryos of living dinosaurs: A path to uncover the evolution of development.” Change over time—whether it’s the fossil record or the embryonic period—can have a profound impact on our interpretations of morphology. Alex’s team has been using inferences from both paleontology and developmental biology to tease apart the details of the complex evolutionary transition from dinosaurs to birds. Is Dollo’s Law true or can seemingly lost structures re-evolve? Come see his talk to hear how developmental genetics and epigenetics can inform interpretation of the classic conundrums of dinosaur-bird evolution.