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About the Society Awards Past Award Winners 2014 Awardees 2014 (Romer Prize) Katrina Jones

 I am an evolutionary anatomist interested in how adaptation has shaped the diversity of mammals. I use quantitative methods to tease apart the influences of function, development and phylogeny on complex anatomical structures. Currently, I am focused on the evolution of the thoracolumbar region in mammals, and its role in locomotion.

Originally from Liverpool, I found my first fossils at age eight while hiking with my family near Llangollen, North Wales. When I later began the Natural Sciences tripos at Cambridge University, I had no idea this path would eventually lead back to my childhood fascination with paleontology. However, once I began my first Geology class I was hooked, and soon became captivated by the history of life. My interest in mammal evolution was sparked by my master’s advisor, Anjali Goswami. During our project, which examined cranial variation in pinnipeds, I was particularly struck with how quantitative shape analysis could be used to test evolutionary and paleobiological hypotheses.

For my dissertation work, I crossed the Atlantic to join Ken Rose at the Johns Hopkins Center for Functional Anatomy and Evolution. Here, I was submersed into the fascinating world of human and comparative anatomy, relishing the opportunity to get to grips with mammalian structure and function. Ken also offered me wonderful opportunities to join his field camp in the Bighorn Basin of Wyoming, where I experienced mammal fossil collection first hand (see profile picture, note pinniped-themed field accessories!).

My fascination with the vertebral column began during an interesting talk by Emily Buchholtz at the SVP meetings, and I was surprised by how little was known about the evolution of this complex but functionally critical system. In particular, I was intrigued by how changing body size may influence the role of the lumbar region in quadrupedal locomotion. Horses were a natural study group for this question because their excellent fossil record documents the evolution of postcranial adaptations associated with cursoriality and increasing size.

Looking to the future, I am excited to be joining Stephanie Pierce at the Museum of Comparative Zoology (MCZ), Harvard University, for a postdoctoral project investigating thoracolumbar evolution in basal mammals and synapsids.

I am honored to be awarded the Alfred Sherwood Romer Prize, especially as I thought the talks presented at this year’s session were of such high quality. Support for my research was generously provided by Sigma-Xi, the American Association of Mammalogists and the American Museum of Natural History Theodore Roosevelt grant. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the many mentors, colleagues, and collections staff who have kindly helped me with my research, especially my advisor Ken Rose.