Author: Nicholas D. Pyenson

Nicholas D. Pyenson

Pyenson is curator of fossil marine mammals at NMNH. He is interested in how different lineages 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. His 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 fossil species, discovered the richest fossil whale graveyard on the planet, and described an entirely new sensory organ in living whales. Currently, he is writing a popular book about the origin and future of whales, to be published in 2018 by Viking Books.

The 2016 Arctic sea ice summertime minimum, reached on Sept. 10, is 911,000 square miles below the 1981-2010 average minimum sea ice extent, shown here as a gold line (NASA Goddard's Scientific Visualization Studio/C. Starr).