Research Paleobiologist, Taphonomist
Kay Behrensmeyer began her distinguished career with the Smithsonian in 1981. Discover Magazine named her one of “50 Most Important Women Scientists” in 2002.
As co-curator for the new Mammals Hall, Kay Behrensmeyer guided the interpretation of evolution and the relationships among mammals. Her influence can be seen in the incorporation of fossil stories and a sense of deep time in the exhibit. She was part of a team of scientists who discovered the 1.5-million-year-old hominid footprints reproduced in the Africa section of the hall.
Kay specializes in studying how organisms become fossils. She usually goes into the field once or twice a year. “I like to walk over large areas of outcrops to get the big picture. Fieldwork is not just about making new discoveries. It’s about understanding what the rocks and fossils mean, solving the puzzles about ancient Earth.”
© 2006 Smithsonian Institution