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New Insights on Dinosaurs

Registration is open for the 2017 Short Course. Please click here for the registration form.

A new look at old bones: Insights on dinosaur growth, development and diversity

Dinosaurs are among the most successful group of vertebrate animals ever to walk on the planet. Their stunning morphological diversity and worldwide fossil record - coupled with their modern-day surviving lineage, the birds - continue to fascinate the student in all of us. Novel analytical tools and techniques allow paleontologists to probe, image, and decipher bone microstructure and preservation critical for testing previously held ideas on dinosaur growth and development. Recent dinosaur discoveries and research by our speakers are helping clarify evolutionary relationships and generate new and exciting questions on dinosaur growth and behavior. Please join us as our experts share their latest research and reveal changing perspectives on the evolution and paleobiology of dinosaurs.

Saturday, March 4, 2017
2050 Valley Life Sciences Building, UC Berkeley
9:00 am to 3:30 pm



Welcome and logistics - Lisa White, UC Museum of Paleontology


Setting the stage - Mark Goodwin, UC Museum of Paleontology


Dawn of the Dinosaurs: Drivers of Early Dinosaur Diversification and Biogeography in the Early Mesozoic.

Nathan Smith, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

The Late Triassic witnessed the origin of modern vertebrate groups and a major mass extinction, yet the early diversification of dinosaurs remains one of the most poorly known events of vertebrate evolution. New discoveries reveal that many features unique to the avian body-plan were already in place early in dinosaur evolution, and that early dinosaurs coexisted with a diverse array of dinosaur ‘precursors’ for millions of years. The perplexing dichotomous pattern of herbivorous dinosaur diversity at high vs. low latitudes may also have been driven by climate and plant community instability in tropical latitudes during the Late Triassic.

Download Nate Smith's presentation (10.3MB)


Dinosaur taphonomy: Insights into their palaeobiology and diversity from preservation patterns.

David Evans, Royal Ontario Museum

The fossil record represents ancient ecosystems viewed through the filter of preservation biases. Taphonomy is the study of the biological, physical, and geological factors that effect preservation of an organism from the time of death to its ultimate discovery as a fossil, or lack thereof. David will present several case studies that show how understanding taphonomy provides important insights into dinosaur biology and the structure of their ecosystems. These include the study of bonebeds that allows scientists to infer herding behavior in horned dinosaurs, and body-size related biases in their skeletal record that shows small dinosaurs were likely much more common than a direct reading of the fossil record implies.


The Maiasaura Life History Project: Using Fossil Bone Histology to Infer Growth Dynamics of the "Good Mother" Dinosaur.

Holly Woodward, Oklahoma State University

The duck-billed dinosaur Maiasaura is famous for being the first dinosaur for which there is strong evidence of parental care. Microscopic examination of 50 Maiasaura fossils, encompassing individuals ranging from hatchling to adult size, permits aspects of growth history to be inferred in great detail, such as average annual growth rate, sexual maturity, skeletal maturity, individual variation, and survivorship. The large sample size of this study, and its incorporation of previous studies into the interpretation of results, makes the biology of Maiasaura the best understood of any dinosaur to date.

Download Holly Woodward's Presentation (8.1 MB)



Please bring a bag lunch.


Using chicken embryos to understand dinosaur evolutionary change.

Dana Rashid, Montana State University

Because of advances in developmental biology, it is now possible to understand not just what happened in evolution, but how it happened. This talk highlights the research conducted on chicken embryos that is tying genetics and embryology to key transitions in dinosaur evolution.

Download Dana Rashid's Presentation (7.2 MB)


Shapeshifting, myths and an inside look at how pachycephalosaurs grow their dome, horns and nodes - and why!

Mark Goodwin, UC Museum of Paleontology

Pachycephalosaurs, or "dome-heads", are a group of bipedal ornithischian dinosaurs characterized by their enigmatic bony dome perched above the roof of the braincase. The function of the dome has confounded paleontologists for decades ever since Ned Colbert, the eminent 20th century vertebrate paleontologist at the American Museum of Natural History, first suggested as a very wild surmise in the 1950's, "Perhaps the skull was used as a sort of battering ram." In more recent decades, increasing dinosaur discoveries from the Western Interior of North America, coupled with advances in digital technologies and analytical techniques, are providing greater resolution and documentation of dome growth, cranial sutures and bone texture that support alternate functional hypotheses such as visual display and communication.

Download Mark Goodwin's Presentation (24.4 MB)


Open questions


About the Speakers
Nathan Smith is an Associate Curator at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. Originally from Illinois, Nate grew up fascinated with dinosaurs, science, and baseball. He received his B.A. from Augustana College, M.S. from the University of Iowa, and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. Before joining the NHM, Nate was an Assistant Professor at Howard University. Paleontological fieldwork has taken Nate to Antarctica, Argentina, China, and the western USA. His research focuses on the evolution of early dinosaurs, waterbirds, and corals.

David Evans holds the Temerty Chair in Vertebrate Palaeontology and oversees dinosaur research at the Royal Ontario Museum. He is also a cross-appointed Associate Professor at the University of Toronto. David's research focuses on the evolution, ecology and diversity of dinosaurs, and their relationship to environmental changes leading up to the end Cretaceous extinction event. Active in the field, he has participated in expeditions all over the world, including Africa, Mongolia, and the Arctic, and has helped discover numerous new dinosaur species.

Holly Woodward is an Assistant Professor at Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences in Tulsa, OK. She uses large-sample osteohistology to assess growth dynamics, individual variability, and survivorship in dinosaurs and other extinct vertebrates, while utilizing the bone microstructure of extant vertebrates to provide a framework for paleohistologic inferences. Woodward earned a Ph.D. from Montana State University, and each summer returns to Montana to lead a Maiasaura bonebed enrichment experience for volunteers from Oklahoma.

Dana Rashid is an Assistant Research Professor at Montana State University in the department of Cell Biology and Neuroscience. As a member of Dino-Chicken Project, she and colleagues are exploring the genetic pathways that provided the transformation from dinosaurs into birds. Dana earned her PhD in Biology from University of California, Davis.

Mark Goodwin is the Assistant Director for collections and research in the UC Museum of Paleontology. He integrates data from comparative morphology and paleohistology with high resolution CT and synchrotron micro-CT scans to investigate how dinosaurs express a remarkable assortment of cranial ornamentation and sutural complexity. Mark oversees an active field program in Mesozoic sediments from the age of dinosaurs in Montana, Ethiopia and in much younger rocks from northern California. Mark earned his undergraduate degree and Masters in the former Department of Paleontology (now Integrative Biology) at UC Berkeley and Ph.D. in Geology at the University of California, Davis.


This short course is co-sponsored by the Berkeley Natural History Museums (BNHM) and Science@Cal.

NOTE: Parking is always a problem on and near the campus. We strongly recommend taking public transportation. If this is not possible, public parking in the campus vicinity is indicated on this two-page pdf.

Questions? Contact Lisa White.

Read about past UCMP short courses.

Photo of UCMP's T. rex by Helina Chin