GENEVA — A renowned paleontologist and Waterloo native will be the keynote speaker at Hobart and William Smith Colleges’ 2019 Convocation ceremony later this month.
Matt Lamanna, a 1997 Hobart graduate, will speak at the Monday, Aug. 26 ceremony, which marks the official start of the academic year.
“It is so exciting to welcome back to campus Matt Lamanna, who has been at the forefront of paleontological research since his graduation,” said HWS President Joyce Jacobsen. “As I explore HWS during my first year, I can think of no better way to start the academic year than hearing from one of our esteemed alums who has devoted his life to exploring some of the most fascinating creatures ever to roam the earth.”
Lamanna is an associate curator of vertebrate paleontology at Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh. He also serves as the museum’s principal dinosaur researcher, studying dinosaurs, birds and crocodilians from the Cretaceous Period, the third and final time period of the Mesozoic Era, or what is called the Age of Dinosaurs.
He is the lead scientific adviser for the museum’s Dinosaurs in their Time exhibit, which includes the nation’s third largest display of mounted original dinosaur skeletons.
HWS officials said he is a “pivotal contributor to the understanding of how dinosaurs and their environments evolved through time,” and that Lamanna has found fossils of these animals on all seven continents, a rarity in the world of paleontology.
According to HWS, his research has received coverage in many major national and international publications and programs, including CNN, The New York Times, NPR, the BBC, National Geographic, the Associated Press and the Journal of Science.
After graduating from HWS with high honors and a bachelor’s degree in geoscience and biology, Lamanna studied dinosaur paleontology at the University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Earth and Environmental Science, where he earned masters and doctorate degrees.
While pursuing his Ph.D., he went on an expedition to Egypt in search of a lost dinosaur site first found in 1911. It was there, said HWS, that Lamanna and collaborators discovered Paralititan stromeri (“tidal giant”), a gigantic new species of sauropod, or long-necked, plant-eating dinosaur.
The discovery in 2000 was the first of many and led to a study 18 years later that detailed the 2013 find of another new sauropod from the Egyptian Western Desert called Mansourasaurus shahinae, considered quite significant by paleontologists, as very few Late Cretaceous sauropod remains had been found in Africa.
Lamanna told USA Today that the discovery was “the culmination of a search that’s occupied almost half my life.”
Lamanna still has many family and friends in Waterloo, and he has visited the campus for public lectures. He also has been featured on WEOS, and has given a presentation in the President’s Forum Series to discuss his work.
The HWS 2019 Convocation ceremony will begin at 5 p.m. on Stern Lawn.