2021 Nominee – Member-At-Large

Caenagnathid theropod metatarsals, photo credit: Thomas Holtz

2021 Nominee – Member-At-Large

Karen Chin

I have been a member of SVP for over 30 years and have greatly appreciated the scientific discourse, networking opportunities, and camaraderie offered by this professional society and its members.  During this time, I have attended some 25 annual SVP meetings and served on the Host Committee for the annual meeting in Denver in 2004.  SVP has enriched my career considerably, and I hope in turn that other members of the Society have found my research contributions to be useful.  My research primarily focuses on what trace fossils can tell us about the paleobiology and paleoecology of ancient vertebrates.  Although this approach is different from the mainstream vertebrate paleontology research of studying skeletal elements, coprolites and other ichnofossils provide key perspectives on the vertebrate fossil record that are unavailable from body fossils.  My research has shed light on unexpected vertebrate trophic strategies, coprolite taphonomy, and oft-hidden paleoecological relationships among ancient vertebrates, invertebrates, plants, and microbes.

I am a Professor in the Department of Geological Sciences and Curator of Paleontology at the University of Colorado Boulder.  My curatorial responsibilities include overseeing our Museum’s premier collections of fossil eggshell and fossil footprints, and I have worked on countless committees in two different campus units.  I served on the Geological Society of America (GSA) Diversity Committee from 2015-2018; this group works to promote diversity in the geological sciences and evaluates applications for GSA’s On To the Future Program for first time GSA meeting attendees.  I currently serve on the Paleontological Society’s A.J. Boucot Research Grant committee (since 2017), and have recently become an associate editor for the International Ichnological Association journal, Ichnos.  My appreciation for the important role of scientific societies has grown over the years, and if elected to the Member at Large position, I would work hard to be an effective liaison in the Society.  In addition to serving the general membership, I would offer a voice for underrepresented minorities, as well as those whose research addresses paleoecological and paleoenvironmental questions.

Although the diversity of the scientific community is growing, it is still often challenging to change the perception that paleontologists should be Caucasian males.  As a woman of color, I have thought long and hard about the challenges faced by minorities in science – particularly in the aftermath of the intense demonstrations for Black Lives Matter last year.  I am heartened to hear of the commitment from SVP to reject racism and support underrepresented minorities in our science.  Broadening graduate recruitment and seeking diverse candidates in hiring decisions will help increase diversity in Earth sciences, but combating implicit bias will require more complex efforts.  Recognizing and addressing systemic racism is difficult, but we can begin by taking concrete measures to provide a supportive, equable, and inclusive environment for all members of our Society, including women, ethnic minorities, immigrants, DACA recipients, members of the LGBTQ community, and people with physical or emotional disabilities.