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What is Vertebrate Paleontology? SVP/Paleo Society Distinguished Lecturer Program The Society of Vertebrate Paleontology has joined the Paleontological Society to make its outstanding paleontologists available to universities, museums, and other organizations for presentations on fossils, evolution, and the nature of science. Distinguished Lecturers make their visits available on an expenses-only basis; no honorarium is required.

Instructions:  The host institution should contact speakers directly to arrange a date and title.  Hosts are expected to cover local expenses such as lodging and meals and the sponsoring society will reimburse up to $400 per visit toward a speaker’s travel at the request of the host.  Funds are limited so book speakers early.  For more information or questions about the Distinguished Lecturers Program, please contact David Polly, SVP President/Past President, at

SVP is delighted to join the Paleontological Society in sponsoring this program.  Their five speakers are also listed below. Please contact Paleo Society directly for reimbursements for talks by the lecturers they are sponsoring.  See their web-page at

Larisa DeSantis
SVP Distinguished Lecturer
(North American venues only)

Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences and Department of Biology
Research Associate, La Brea Tar Pits and Museum
Earth & Environmental Sciences
Vanderbilt University
PMB 351805
2301 Vanderbilt Place  
Nashville, TN 37235-1805
Phone: (615) 343-7831
  Talk titles: 
  • Mammalian responses to climate change and megafaunal extinctions during the Pleistocene
  • Ancient ecology of Pleistocene predators and their prey: tales from the La Brea tar pits and beyond
  • Scratching the surface: using dental microwear textures and dietary behavior
  About Larisa:
Larisa DeSantis is a vertebrate paleontologist and paleoecologist who has worked at Vanderbilt University in Nashville since 2009.  Her research uses modern, historic, and fossil records to inform ecologists and conservation biologists about floral and faunal responses to environmental change during the Cenozoic, with a focus on mammalian communities in North America and Australia.  By integrating multiple proxy methods, including stable isotopes, 3D dental microwear texture analysis, and dental mesowear/macrowear, Larisa has helped expand the use of these tools to clarify the paleobiology of a diverse array of mammals including carnivorans, marsupials, primates (including humans), ungulates, and xenarthrans.  Her research has clarified potential drivers and consequences of megafauna extinctions, impacts of aridification and changing climates on the dietary behavior of mammals across space and time, relationships between craniodental morphology and diet, and she is currently investigating how diet and grit influence microscopic and macroscopic tooth wear in extant mammals.  When Larisa is not in the laboratory, field, or classroom, she is involved in public outreach.  As the Chair of the Education and Outreach Committee of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology she helps organize teacher workshops and established the annual Education and Outreach poster session in 2010.  She has developed educational modules to help effectively communicate the science of evolution to diverse audiences, and enjoys engaging with the public through outreach activities in conjunction with local science centers, schools, and even local movie theaters and breweries.  She hopes to improve scientific literacy while also diversifying her field through education, outreach, and mentoring in paleontology.
Additional information about Larisa is available on her website.
Nadia Fröbisch
SVP Distinguished Lecturer
(European venues only)

Museum für Naturkunde
Leibniz-Institute for Evolution and Biodiversity Science
Invalidenstraße 43
10115 Berlin
Phone: +49 30 889140-8401
  Talk titles:
  • From fossils and genes—amphibian evolution through deep time
  • The evolution of high regenerative capacities in vertebrates
  About Nadia:
Nadia Fröbisch is interested in the evolution and development of the vertebrate body plan and the relationship between ontogeny and phylogeny throughout the evolutionary history of tetrapods. Her current research focuses on the evolutionary and developmental biology of amphibians. She uses an integrative approach that combines data from extant taxa and the fossil record to develop a broad perspective for the evolutionary history of amphibians through deep time. Therein, the combined study of developmental patterns and processes in crown group amphibians and fossil taxa offers the unique possibility to gain an understanding for the evolution of developmental pathways and the acquisition of the derived morphologies seen in modern forms.  She is the Deputy Head of Science Programme Evolution and Geoprocesses at the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin and head of the Department Evolutionary Morphology.
Karen Moreno
SVP Distinguished Lecturer
(South American venues only)

Universidad Austral de Chile
Instituto de Ciencias de la Tierra, Facultad de Ciencias
Edificio Pugin oficina # 318, 3er piso
Valdivia, Chile
Phone: +56 63 222 1448
  Talk titles:
  • Dinosaurs walking: Chile during the Late Jurassic
  • Miocene mammals from northern Chile, how little we do know about their way of life
  • Developing a paleo Master’s program in a country with limited history in paleontology
  About Karen:
Karen Moreno is a paleobiologist interested on the way terrestrial vertebrates adapt to their environments. She uses a variety of approaches, like the analysis of bone internal structure, and the study of ichnites (fossil traces). She also combines anatomical and biomechanical data using computer simulations and finite element analysis. She has investigated a variety of mammals (sable tooth cat, chimp, and Notoungulates among others) and Reptiles (mainly varanids, and dinosaurs). Since she is currently the director a Master in Paleontology programme in Chile, the first and only university program focused on this subject in my country, she has also collaborated in vertebrate paleontology in a wide sense, helping MSc projects on fossil fish identification, on human evolution, and anything that the students would like to develop. Her academic career began in Chile as a biologist, then as a PhD student at Bristol University in the UK, ,including time spent at the Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian Institution, followed by postdoctoral fellowships, lecturerships, and reserarcher assistantships in Sydney Australia, Paris, and Toulouse. She is comfortable speaking in Spanish, English or French.
Additional information about Karen is available at her website.
Yurena Yanes
Paleontological Society Distinguished Lecturer

University of Cincinnati
Assistant Professor of Geology
Department of Geology
University of Cincinnati
Cincinnati OH 45221
  Talk titles:
  • Land Snails as Paleoclimate Proxies: From Local to Global Scales
  • Environmental and Anthropogenic Drivers of Ecological Change: Lessons Learned from Land Snails
  • Integrating Archeology and Geochemistry: Tales from Shell Middens
  About Yurena:
Yurena Yanes is a Quaternary paleoecologist and paleoenvironmentalist who has worked at the University of Cincinnati since 2013. Her research seeks to better understand how humans, biological communities and the environment interact with each other. These interactions are studied at various spatial (from local to global) and temporal (paleontological, archeological and historical to present) scales. The group of organisms she uses to examine biotic-environmental-human linkages is Mollusca (primarily gastropods), which are abundant, often well preserved in the fossil and archeological record, and highly sensitive to environmental and anthropogenic stressors. She integrates data, techniques and approaches from multiple scientific disciplines including ecology, taphonomy, paleoecology, isotope geochemistry, Quaternary geochronology, archeology and the emerging field of conservation paleobiology.
Yurena has focused much of her career on studying fossil, archeological and modern land snail communities from oceanic islands and continental settings around the world, a group of organisms that are severally threatened by human impacts, and generally have received less publicity and lower scientific and conservation efforts than other major animal groups.
Yurena is native from the Canary Islands, Spain and seeks to serve as a role model for other women, immigrants and minorities (particularly Hispanic women) in STEMP fields.
Noelia Carmona

Instituto de Investigación en Paleobiología y Geología
(CONICET – Universidad Nacional de Río Negro)
Av. Roca 1242, (8332). Roca, Río Negro
Pagagonia, Argentina
  Talk titles:
  • Infaunalization trends during the Neogene: the ichnologic evidence from Patagonia
    • La infaunalización en el Neógeno: Evidencias icnológicas en Patagonia
  • Crustacean ichnology in marine environments: ethologic and evolutionary implications
    • Icnología de crustáceos en ambientes marinos: implicancias etológicas y evolutivas
  • Fossil tracks and burrows: deciphering behaviour in ancient beaches
    • Huellas y excavaciones fósiles: Descifrando comportamientos en playas del pasado

About Noelia:
Noelia is a professor at the Universidad Nacional de Río Negro, Patagonia, Argentina. She has a joint appointment as researcher with the Argentinian National Council of Science and Technology (CONICET). Her research is focused mostly on Cenozoic trace fossils from Patagonia, comparing these paleocommunities with those found in modern shallow marine environments. Most recently she also started exploring Mesozoic marine trace fossils from the Neuquén Basin in Argentina, in order to understand the impact of the establishment of the Modern Evolutionary Fauna and the associated large-scale restructuring of shallow-marine benthic communities. In addition, she is also interested on modern and ancient microbial mats in siliciclastic environments, and their paleoenvironmental and taphonomic implications.

Noelia coordinates a science club at a local public library, where she teaches workshops on paleontology, biology and geology for kids. She is an active member of AWG, being the founder of the Patagonia Chapter. Noelia is a passionate advocate of women in Science and has coordinated a program for schools promoting STEM education and careers among girls.