I’m paleontologist Jingmai O’Connor
aka paleontologista aka the punk rock paleontologist.
Using a variety of methods I study theropod dinosaurs with a focus on understanding the dinosaur-bird transition and the evolution of modern bird physiology.
Areas of expertise
Mesozoic bird phylogeny
Using cladistics I seek to build the most comprehensive character matrix of fossil birds and their closest relatives in order to better understand the dinosaur-bird transition and the Cretaceous radiation of birds.
Fossil soft tissues
Through the study and analysis of observable Fossils preserve more than bones. Fossilized soft tissues reveal important aspects of extinct biology that can’t be gleaned from just the skeleton. Exploring methods to best study these tissues sheds light on unexpected aspects of extinct paravian biology.
Discoveries in the last decade have revealed that volant behavior has most likely evolved repeatedly in dinosaurs closely related to birds. The how and why that underlie this locomotor revolution represents one of the most exciting aspects of theropod paleontology.
Science needs to reach out
In an age of Science denialism and environmental crisis, research must be paired with community outreach. I am passionate about promoting diversity in STEM and igniting scientific interest in peoples of all ages through the exciting stories uncovered from spectacular fossil birds and their closest relatives.
More details →
The Evolution of Dinosaurian Flight
Thu, 24 Feb 2022
Upcoming talk at the Milwaukee Public Museum, WI
Documentary with Science Insider
Thu, 26 Jan 2022
Documentary published by Science Insider
Section Editor at All Earth Magazine
Sat, 1 Jan 2022
New role as Section Editor at All Earth Magazine
I am passionate about sharing my research and love of fossils with people from all backgrounds. You can find links to talks and podcasts on this website. I am keen to inspire the next generation of diverse and inclusive scientists by showing that anyone can be a successful paleontologist as long as you work hard and by providing academic and emotional support as I am able. We are a community and it is together that we succeed.
Personal notes and thoughts about work I’m passionate about
More details →
A mystery of tyrannosaur proportions
Pathology is one of the most difficult things to unravel in an extinct organism.
Best preserved Late Cretaceous enantiornithine
Late Cretaceous fossil birds are rare. When found, they are usually very incomplete hindering attempts to understand broad trends in avian evolution across the Cretaceous.
Mystery of the stomach crystals
There is almost no evidence of enantiornithine diet in the form of ingested remains. This is strange because thousands of well-preserved specimens have been recovered and such evidence exists for contemporaneous ornithuromorphs known from far fewer specimens. As such, any evidence pertaining to enantiornithine diet and digestive function is important.
In order to maximize the impact of scientific research and utilize the power of paleontology as a gateway science, I happily engage in outreach as opportunities arise.
In 2021, I worked together with SUE Science Saturday, Collection’s Club, Mason Elementary Career Day, FMNH Founder’s Council, Glencoe Public Library and the FMNH Dinosaur Day.
In 2020, I supported WeDigBio, Collection’s Club, FMNH Member’s Night and Pomona College “Dinosaur History Class”.
I have also been working together the Canadian International School (Beijing) and local elementary and high schools across Los Angeles.
My outreach also includes popular science articles, guest blogs (yes blogs!), responding to emails from students of all ages (go on, write me!), collections tours, and classroom visits.