Kristi Curry Rogers, Ph.D., is Assistant Curator of Paleontology at the Science Museum of Minnesota and a Visiting Assistant Professor of Geology at Macalester College in St. Paul, MN. She holds a B. Sc. in Biology from Montana State University, and a M.Sc. Ph.D. in Anatomical Science from the State University of New York at Stony Brook.
Curry-Rogers has been interested in dinosaurs since she was six years old and vowed to be a paleontologist when she grew up. She now travels to Madagascar and Zimbabwe in search of new dinosaur fossils, and studies the evolution of the dinosaur family tree. She is especially interested in questions related to dinosaur biology, and has focused her research in two major areas: 1) The sauropod, or long-necked dinosaurs known as titanosaurs; and 2) bone histology in living and fossil animals and its importance for understanding how long-extinct organisms lived.
Curry-Rogers' primary focus is on the evolutionary relationships and biology of titanosaurs. Her Ph. D. research involved naming, describing, and deciphering the anatomy and relationships of two brand new titanosaur species from Madagascar. This work has taken her around the world in search of clues toward solving the mystery of life for sauropods at the end of the age of dinosaurs.
Bone histology (the study of the microscopic aspects of bones) is another major research focus for Curry-Rogers. The internal, microscopic structure of bones is often retained in fossils. and as such can record clues regarding the life history of an organism. Specifically, studying of fossilized bone can provide a glimpse into how quickly dinosaurs grew, how long they may have lived, and even when they reached their adult sizes. Studying tissues in living animals, like birds, crocodiles and mammals, offers Curry-Rodgers insight into understanding similar features in extinct animals.
How did you choose your present profession?
I wanted to be a paleontologist from the age of about 7. Even at that age I was fascinated with life, discovery, and collecting, and that insight into deep time that fossils provide is still what fires my interest in paleontology.
What would you recommend for students wanting to pursue a similar career?
I think that students should be diverse in what they learn about... paleontology is a unique science because it combines portions of so many other scientific fields. Of course geology and biology play a huge role in our understanding of the ancient past, but recently paleo has seen huge developments and incorporates many other, related sciences.
Paleontologists now work on biochemistry, they use physics and math to figure out how fossil animals moved, they use computers to help them discover the pattern of evolution, and many paleontologists study modern animals to discover something about how fossil organisms might have behaved. Although none of us can be an expert in all of these things, if a young student is really interested in paleontology, I would recommend learning something about all of them. You never know what might come into play in paleontology.
What do you like best about your profession?
One of my favorite things about being a paleontologist is doing field work. I love getting outside and camping as much as possible. My field work in the past few years has taken me to far away places like Madagascar and Zimbabwe, and that's a great part of work, too. I've been able to visit lots of different places as a paleontologist. Conducting museum research in Russia or Romania, and doing field work in places like Madagascar has allowed me to see more of the world than I ever imagined I'd be able to.
What web sites and references would you recommend for viewers interested in your work that was featured inThe Shape of Life series?
You can see what my work is about in a bit more detail on my page on the Science Museum of Minnesota's site (that's the museum where I work). In addition, there are several papers related.
One is in the Scientific American Book of Dinosaurs (edited by Greg Paul, published in 2000). There is an article called "Dinosaur Growth" that I wrote and is specifically about histological research.
Other, more technical papers include:
Curry, Kristina A. 1999. Ontogenetic histology of Apatosaurus (Dinosauria: Sauropoda): New insights on growth rates and longevity. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 19, 654-665.
Erickson, G., K. Curry Rogers, and S. Yerby. 2001. Dinosaurian growth patterns and rapid avian growth rates. Nature 412, 429 - 433. (I'm not sure of the volume. I'll have to look it up.)
Castanet, J., K. Curry Rogers, J. Cubo, and J. J. Boisard. 2000. Quantification of periosteal osteogenesis in ostrich and emu: Implications for studies of extinct dinosaurian bone histology. Comptes Rendus l'Academie des Sciences 323, 543-550.