Jeanette Pirlo, Paleontologist and Marine Biologist

Jeanette in the collections at the Florida Museum!

I am currently a Ph.D. student studying paleontology at the Florida Museum. My main interest are fossil sharks and how their distributional range (where they live) has changed over time. I have been lucky enough to travel to different places to look for fossils, including Florida, Panama, the Nebraska Badlands, and California. My two favorite finds, so far, have been a Megalodon tooth in California, and a carnivore humerus while in the Badlands. Along with the field work, I also develop and put on workshops for K-12 educators to teach them about paleontology and how to bring it back into their classrooms. I love hosting these workshops because I get to share my enthusiasm for paleontology and give teachers fossils to take back to their classrooms.

Jeanette in the Nebraska Badlands!

I do not have data in the same sense as most scientists because I have just begun planning out my research projects for my dissertation. But I have been working on various projects that allow me to try new data-finding tools, including 3D technology like desktop 3D scanners and microCT scanners. This technology has allowed us to scan fossils and do morphometric analysis on the specimens. I’m excited to see where these skills will take me with my research! Through the workshops I’ve designed, I have been able to create fossil kits for teachers and help them teach climate change, evolution, and geologic time, among other topics, using fossils as evidence for change. I’ve learned how to create programs that are impactful for participants by providing them content that they can bring back to their classrooms. I’m looking forward to continuing this aspect of my work. I enjoy having a direct large impact on communities. As for my research, I am interested in figuring out how shark population distributions will change as ocean temperatures change by looking at fossil shark distributions over deep time.

Jeanette having fun and finding fossils in the field in Panama! It’s not a true field trip until you get messy!

My favorite part of being a paleontologist is being out in the field finding fossils! There is nothing more exciting than finding a fossil because you realize that you are the first person to see a bone of an animal that lived millions of years ago! I also really enjoy taking people out to do fieldwork that have never done it before. To see the joy in their face when they find their first fossil is contagious! I remember how much I love my job and my career because I get to share that enthusiasm with them! My advice to young scientists is to never give up on your dreams! I took an unconventional path to get where I am at, but I am so grateful that I followed every chance I got, even the scary ones! Follow your dreams regardless of what they may be, science or not. It’s not easy and you will have days when you’re ready to give it all up, but know that it is true what they say, when you get to do what you love, it stops feeling like work!


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