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2009 Patterson Memorial Grant Recipient

Jack Tseng

Jack Tseng

I was born in Taiwan, and spent my teenage years in California. My interest in mammalogy and paleontology germinated when I was an undergraduate student at the University of California, Berkeley. I was fortunate enough have the guidance of many professors and mentors in the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology (MVZ) and the University of California Museum of Paleontology (UCMP), who encouraged my interest in live hyenas, dead Miocene rats, and everything in between. My hope to become a museum scientist and an educator also grew out of the K-12 outreach program at the Berkeley Natural History Museums where I was an undergraduate assistant. The unique experience I had in the MVZ and UCMP was the main impetus for the continuation of my intellectual exploration in graduate school.

I am currently a graduate student in the Integrative and Evolutionary Biology Program at the University of Southern California (USC) and the Department of Vertebrate Paleontology at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (LACM). In addition to doing research on my PhD project, I also have frequent opportunities to continue interactions with the K-12 audience through museum outreach programs. I am a strong believer in combining research with outreach to make the most out of the time I have as a graduate student (and hopefully, future curator). My research currently focuses on the functional morphological evolution of the Hyaenidae and Canidae families during the Neogene of the Old and New Worlds, and fieldwork on late Miocene mammal faunas in Inner Mongolia and the Tibetan Plateau.

I am very excited to receive the Patterson Memorial Grant to fund my 2009 field season in Inner Mongolia, which will be the excavation of two new late Miocene bone beds in the Baogeda Ula Formation of central Inner Mongolia. This award comes at a critical time, during my year in China as a visiting graduate student at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP), and allows me to conduct fieldwork with assistance from my host. Through extraction, preparation, and study of the mammal fossils from the new beds, I hope to better understand the composition of the latest Miocene Hipparion fauna of central Mongolia, its preservation environments, and its relation to other contemporaneous faunas of Eurasia. Better understanding of this fauna will also allow researchers to study faunal change during the Miocene by comparing the mammalian faunas from the classic middle Miocene Tunggur Formation with the Baogeda Ula Formation, as well as questions related to the geographic location of central Inner Mongolia being on the front steps of the Old World in exchanging faunal elements with North America during the later Miocene.

In addition to my advisor Dr. Xiaoming Wang (LACM) and my host advisor Dr. Zhanxiang Qiu (IVPP), there are too many mentors to thank all of them individually. Thus, I could only broadly acknowledge the dedicated staffs of the IVPP, LACM, MVZ, UCMP, and USC who have enlightened me. The Society of Vertebrate Paleontology meetings have been (and will continue to be) a major source of intellectual stimulation in my professional development.

Photo courtesy of Jack Tseng.