Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History
Nick Pyenson is curator of fossil marine mammals at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History. He interested in how different kinds of four-limbed animals have repeatedly invaded oceans from land ancestry over the past 250 million years – an evolutionary cross-section of vertebrate life that includes sea turtles, seabirds, and especially marine mammals, such as whales. Dr. Pyenson's scientific expeditions have taken him to every continent, with a strong focus on paleontological exploration, anatomical discovery, international mentorship, and 3D digitization for museum collections. Along with his collaborators, he has named over a half-dozen new species of fossil whales, discovered the richest fossil whale graveyard on the planet, and described an entirely new sensory organ in living whales. He received a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers from President Barack Obama’s Administration, and numerous research awards from the Smithsonian, including the Secretary’s Research Prize. He is currently working on a book about the past, present, and future of whales, which will be published in 2018.