Member since: June 4, 2012
Lindsay E. Zanno, Ph.D.
Director, Paleontology & Geology Research Laboratory, Nature Research Center, North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, Raleigh, NC
Assistant Research Professor, Department of Biology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC.
Dr. Zanno is a vertebrate paleontologist whose primary interest centers on the anatomy, phylogeny, and paleoecology of theropod dinosaurs—a group that includes the iconic megapredator T. rex as well as living birds. Although theropods are colloquially known as predatory dinosaurs, Dr. Zanno’s research has demonstrated extensive dietary diversity among bird-like theropods, including widespread plant eating. She is currently one of the world’s leading experts on a bizarre group of herbivorous theropods dubbed therizinosaurs, some species of which possessed scythe-shaped hand claws more than five feet in length.
Dr. Zanno’s field-based research tackles patterns of faunal turnover, extinction, and replacement in ancient terrestrial ecosystems, with a current focus on the southwestern USA. Here she works to identify the influence of geographic and climatic variables on faunal dynamics during two particularly turbulent periods in the Cretaceous of western North America—the late Early Cretaceous, a time of interchange and turnover associated with the initial establishment of a transarctic land bridge, and the Campano-Maastrichtian, a time of remarkably high dinosaur diversity associated with tectonic evolution of the Western Interior Basin. Dr. Zanno also studies the ontogeny and life history of fossil vertebrates through her research on bone histology and trait expression. Her team continues to unearth one of the world’s largest samples of a single theropod dinosaur species from a mass death site known as the Crystal Geyser Quarry.
Zanno received a B.S. in Biological Anthropology from the University of New Mexico (summa cum laude, 1999), a M.S. in Geology (2004), and a Ph.D. in Geology (2008) from the University of Utah. Her enduring interest in science education solidified during her graduate studies when she was granted two successive NSF Graduate STEM Fellowships in K-12 Education. Subsequently, she was awarded the prestigious John Meeker-Caldwell (2008-2010) and Bucksbaum Young Scientist (2010-2011) fellowships to conduct postdoctoral research at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago Illinois, where she remains a Research Associate. Dr. Zanno’s work has received numerous recognitions including a Sylvester-Bradley Award and Discover Magazine’s Year in Science recognition for top research in paleontology. Her work has been featured in nearly a dozen television and movie features produced by notables such as the Science Channel, History Channel, and BBC. Zanno’s publications include over 50 technical works and a children’s book on the cycle of life.
As Director of the Paleontology and Geology Division of the Nature Research Center, North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, Dr. Zanno supervises the fossil preparation and citizen scientist volunteer program. She is jointly appointed as Associate Research Faculty in the Biology Department at North Carolina State University where she teaches courses and advises graduate students. Zanno is also the Executive Director and Founder of the Children’s Ptosis Foundation, a non-profit organization advocating for patients and families touched by eye disorders.