Randall Gann, Public Information Officer
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National Science Foundation Awards Research Grant to Museum Curator Dr. Thomas Williamson
Dr. Thomas E. Williamson, Curator of Paleontology at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science (NMMNHS), has been awarded a generous three-year research grant from the National Science Foundation to study the possible relationship between climate change and changes in mammal life forms in the early Paleocene epoch. The total project award was $430,717, and $120,471 of that total was awarded to the NMMNHS and will be given over a 3-year period. The project will provide a better understanding of the role climate change played in the earliest mammal-dominated ecosystems. Dr Williamson is the Principal Investigator for the project, formally titled “Testing the link between climate and mammalian faunal dynamics in the early Paleocene record of the San Juan Basin, New Mexico,” and he is working in collaboration with scientists from several other institutions: Drs. Daniel Peppe, Stacy Atchley, and Lee Nordt of Baylor University, Dr. Ross Secord of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and Dr. Stephen Brusatte of the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. This project will provide unique educational and research opportunities for high school, undergraduate, and graduate students, including Native American students from New Mexico. Results of this research will be incorporated into a permanent museum exhibit at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science.
New Mexico contains the most complete, diverse, and longest record of early Paleocene mammal evolution known anywhere in the world, spanning from about 65.8 to 62.2 million years ago, preserved in sediments of the Nacimiento Formation of the San Juan Basin, near the Four Corners. The early Paleocene is of particular importance for understanding the evolution of modern ecosystems because it includes the first mammal-dominated ecosystems that appeared immediately following the end-Cretaceous extinction of dinosaurs and other animals.
Dr. Thomas E. Williamson has been a Curator of Paleontology at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science since 1994. His research has focused on Late Cretaceous and Paleocene fossils of the San Juan Basin, northwestern New Mexico and he specializes in Late Cretaceous dinosaurs and Cretaceous and Paleocene mammals.
The New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science preserves and interprets the distinctive natural and scientific heritage of our state through extraordinary collections, research, exhibits, and programs designed to ignite a passion for lifelong learning.