FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, August 16, 2010
Contact: Lalena Price, Communications Coordinator 304-746-1989


Marshall University paleontologist to share species discovery at international symposium in China

HUNTINGTON, W.VA. – A Marshall University professor, whose fossil research led to the discovery of a new species of marine animal, has accepted a prestigious invitation from the Chinese government to share his findings with its National Science Foundation of China.

Dr. Robin O’Keefe, an associate professor in MU’s Department of Biological Sciences, will present his recent plesiosaur discoveries from the Jurassic Sundance Formation in Wyoming during the International Symposium on Triassic and later Marine Vertebrate Faunas at Peking University in Beijing. O’Keefe said that he was honored to be asked to present his research at this prestigious international symposium.

“The research I will discuss concerns a marine reptile, a plesiosaur we called Tatenectes laramiensis, discovered in the Bighorn Basin of Wyoming several years ago. Laboratory work with my graduate students has just been completed, and we are publishing our results now,” O’Keefe explained. “The symposium in China is an amazing opportunity, and I hope it will enrich the teaching and research experiences I can provide.”

According to O’Keefe, Tatenectes laramiensis is a type of plesiosaur from the Jurassic Era, the period when large dinosaurs roamed the Earth. The marine animal had a long, wide, flat body, with four flippers, a tail and a long neck. O’Keefe’s findings were made possible by a grant from National Geographic.

After the two-day symposium, Aug. 28-29 at Peking University’s Geological Museum in the School of Earth and Space Sciences, O’Keefe will join colleagues from around the world to research fossil sites throughout China the following week.

“These areas are very hot for marine reptile fossil research right now, so this is a great opportunity for me to be exposed to, and perhaps participate in, cutting-edge research,” O’Keefe said.

O’Keefe has taught biology and paleontology for Marshall University since 2006. He teaches human anatomy and comparative vertebrate anatomy and serves as a graduate adviser. He received his B.S. in Biology from Stanford University and his Ph.D. in Evolutionary Biology from the University of Chicago. O’Keefe has published numerous scientific publications, and also has served as a scientific adviser for National Geographic, IMAX and the Discovery Channel. 

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Photo: Dr. Robin O’Keefe, an associate professor in Marshall University’s Department of Biological Sciences, will present his recent plesiosaur discoveries from the Jurassic Sundance Formation in Wyoming during the International Symposium on Triassic and later Marine Vertebrate Faunas at Peking University in Beijing. Photo courtesy of Marshall University.



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