A discussion with paleontologist Jingmai O’Connor on The Hideout Online. Jingmai is a specialist on how dinosaurs evolved into birds, and helped discover a new family of creatures called “bat-wing dinosaurs.”
A scientist walks into a bar
About the show
Science writer Kate Golembiewski interviews scientists about their work. Lighthearted, eclectic, and exploring both the history of science and what’s on the cutting edge, A Scientist Walks into a Bar is a place where adults can have a real conversation about what new research is changing the way we understand the world with a drink in hand. We cover everything from space, to dinosaurs, to mental health.
This episode’s guest
O’Connor grew up in Pasadena, CA raised by her Irish-American father and Chinese mother together with 3 siblings. O’Connor followed her mother into the field of Geology and was introduced to paleontology by Dr. Donald Prothero while studying at Occidental College (Class of ’04). Inspired by the mind-blowing process of evolution and the amazing feathered dinosaurs being unearthed in China, O’Connor decided to study paleontology and focus on Chinese fossils. O’Connor did her PhD studying Mesozoic birds at the University of Southern California (2009) with Drs David Bottjer and Luis Chiappe (Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History). After graduation she moved to Beijing, China where she has been working for the past ten years with Dr. Zhonghe Zhou at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology. Jingmai loves dancing, good food, and traveling and is an avid reader. O’Connor’s research explores the repeated evolution (and parallel refinement) of flight in the Dinosauria, the dinosaur-bird transition, and the biology of stem-avians, not through any one aspect but exploring Paraves through the evolution of feathers and complex plumages, aerodynamics, reproduction, respiration, trophics, systematics, ontogeny, and taxonomy. Taking advantage of the exceptional soft tissue preservation of the Jehol Biota, O’Connor’s research seeks to go beyond skeletal anatomy, to understand the biology of stem birds and their closest relatives and trace the evolution of modern avian features.