Dr. Alyssa Bell received her Ph.D. in vertebrate paleontology from the University of Southern California in 2013, after which she joined the Dinosaur Institute as a Postdoctoral Research Associate. Alyssa’s research focuses primarily on avian evolution and the use of phylogenetics to study Cretaceous bird diversity. One facet of her research focuses on resolving the systematics and taxonomy of the Hesperornithiformes, a group of Late Cretaceous marine birds. Her Ph.D. thesis is the most complete compilation of research on the hesperornithiforms to date. Dr. Bell has also done a great deal of work exploring the use of morphometric data to better understand the ecology of Mesozoic birds. Alyssa has been participating in paleontological field work since she was a teenager, and has been contributing to NHM digs since 2005. She has worked throughout the western United States and helped excavate specimens such as Thomas the T. rex and the sauropod Gnatalie. In addition to her postdoc at the NHM, Dr. Bell is the Lead Paleontologist for SWCA Environmental Consultants, where she works to protect fossil resources in Southern California. Alyssa has been interested in paleontology and the evolution of birds from an early age. As an undergraduate, she did research on the molecular systematics of modern birds at William Jewell College, Cambridge University, and Brigham Young University. As a master's student at the University of Tennessee, Dr. Bell worked on developing molecular techniques to use anaerobic enteric bacteria as indicators of surface water contamination.
As a postdoctoral research scientist in the Dinosaur Institute, Dr. Rachel Racicot conducts paleontological research on a wide range of topics, including evolutionary morphology of marine mammals, scleractinian corals, dinosaurs from the Central Transantarctic Mountains, and the earliest known complex organisms (Ediacarans). Rachel wanted to be a paleontologist from the age of 5 because of her love of the outdoors and experience collecting invertebrate fossils around her hometown, Killeen, Texas. Her favorite dinosaur growing up was Pachycephalosaurus, but she became interested in studying marine mammals, specifically whales, after taking a course in vertebrate osteology as an undergraduate at The University of Texas at Austin; the evolution of whale (and other vertebrate and invertebrate) morphology has fascinated her ever since. Rachel earned her B.S. at The University of Texas at Austin, where she also worked as a tech for the University of Texas High Resolution X-Ray CT Facility and did independent research using CT scans. She earned an M.S. in Evolutionary Biology at San Diego State University, and PhD in Vertebrate Paleontology/Geology and Geophysics at Yale University. She was previously at Howard University in Dr. Nate Smith’s lab and has continued research with him at the Dinosaur Institute. Rachel’s paleontological fieldwork thus far has spanned four continents, taking her to places such as Iceland, Japan, Namibia, Morocco, and within the US (Arizona, North Dakota, Montana). Her research has been funded by NSF, National Geographic, the Paleontological Society, and others. She is an editor for the international outreach journal Palaeontology [online]. Rachel’s work encompasses detailed anatomical descriptions of both fossil and extant species, which has garnered media attention, as well as analyses of functional morphology, phylogeny, and paleoecology.
Justin Hall is a graduate student in the Integrative and Evolutionary Biology Ph.D. program at the University of Southern California. He is interested in morphological variation, both within and between species, as well as functional morphology and adaptations for feeding and locomotion in theropod dinosaurs and squamate reptiles. Recent advances in computing and software technology are opening new lines in inquiry in functional morphology. His research combines relatively new techniques such as three-dimensional CT reconstructions, Finite Element Analysis (FEA) and Geometric Morphometrics with more traditional morphometric and kinematic techniques. He did his undergraduate work at the University of Texas-Austin in Geological Sciences and Anthropology and received a master's degree in Environmental Science from Washington University in St. Louis and a master's degree in Anatomical Sciences from Stony Brook University.
Nathan Carroll's first experience with the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County was in Ekalaka, Montana. As a high school student, he had the privilege of assisting the NHM crews as they excavated dinosaurs just 20 minutes away from the ranch he grew up on. He pursued a B.S. and was recently awarded (December 2014) a M.S. in Earth Sciences at Montana State University, where he studied the diversity of Late Cretaceous pterosaurs. He is excited to start his Ph.D. program at USC in conjuction with NHM, where he works around the actual dinosaur specimens that started his career as a teenager in Montana.