April 30, 2018

About Us

Name: Taormina (Tara) Lepore

Job title: Science Teacher/Lab Manager and Research Associate

Institution: The Webb Schools and Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology

Favorite prehistoric animal: Deinonychus

How did you become interested in paleontology?

Like many kids, my interests bounced around between a lot of things – including the sciences – as I was growing up. I had a couple of toys and books that struck my interest in dinosaurs as very young child, and the sheer weirdness of ancient animals eventually got me super interested in biology. I reached out to some paleontology professors in search of advice and encouragement, and I eventually volunteered at the Harvard Museum of Natural History in high school – I’d recommend museum volunteering to any student who can manage it! Then I went on to study biology and dinosaur trackways at UMass Amherst. I worked for a few years in a pharmaceutical lab to save up for graduate school, and moved to Colorado to study museum collections management and the amazing preservative power of coprolites from theropod dinosaurs. Coprolites, if you didn’t know, are literally fossil poop!

How did you become involved in paleontology education?

I started substitute teaching while in Colorado, and I’ve volunteered or worked in a number of museums as a guide or educator – and these experiences brought me a lot of joy! Fast forward a few years, and I’ve found my passions are two-fold: I love working with high school students as an educator, and helping students learn how to do research in the classroom. I started the Paleontology Education Facebook group with a few of my friends and colleagues because there’s a continuous need for real-time feedback from and between educators, parents, students, and researchers of all stripes. I’m also working on a second Masters in science education to help bridge student experiences in field science with the idea of “science stewardship” – how do students learn to be caretakers of science through protected spaces, like national parks and monuments?


Name: Stephanie Lukowski

Job title: Paleontologist/Program Director

Institution: Ice Age Discovery Center

Favorite prehistoric animal:  There are so many interesting animals that have lived on our planet that it’s hard to pick one!  Because I work at an ice age museum, I will have to go with the Jefferson’s ground sloth.  We found three of these bizarre animals here in Snowmass Village.  They were the size of a large grizzly bear on all fours, and stood 10 feet tall on their haunches—and this was just a medium sized sloth!  Some of the larger species of ground sloth from South America could reach the size of a school bus.  They also had three large claws on their hands and feet that were used for shredding the leaves, branches, and fruit from trees which made up their diet.  There is nothing like the ground sloth alive today, which makes it interesting to think about.

How did you become interested in paleontology?

I have been interested in paleontology since I was a child.  I grew up in the Chicago area which is home to the Field Museum.  I loved spending time in the fossil exhibit hall.  In addition, family vacations to places like Montana were inspirational to me.  Going from someplace flat like Chicago, to the mountains made me want to learn more about the processes that have shaped our planet.

Starting in high school, I volunteered at the Field Museum—first in the education department and then in the geology department where I learned to prepare fossils.  Later on, I went to college and received a bachelor’s degree in geology.  I then went on to receive a master’s degree in vertebrate paleontology.  In grad school, I studied a small group of mammals called phenacodonitds that first appeared in the Paleocene—the geological epoch right after the dinosaurs died.  I have spent a lot of time working in museums and doing field work both in the USA and abroad.  I now work in a small museum/education center that focuses on the world’s finest high elevation ice age fossil discovery.

How did you become involved in paleontology education?

I think it is important to make science accessible to everyone.  Education has been a recurring theme in my career as a paleontologist from the beginning.  My current position at the Ice Age Discovery Center has me designing our K-12 and adult education programs.  I am also working towards a master’s in natural science education in order to provide high quality programming for the schools that use the Discovery Center as a resource.



Name: Gabriel-Philip Santos

Job title: Collections Manager and Outreach Coordinator

Institution: The Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology

Favorite prehistoric animal: Desmostylians

How did you become interested in paleontology?

My career goals didn’t always involve paleontology. For my undergraduate work, I was a premed and eventually got my degree in biological science. After graduating, though, I decided medicine wasn’t for me. So, after a short period of searching, my passion for science and education reignited after a visit to the American Museum of Natural History. A few weeks later, I began volunteering at the Cooper Center in Santa Ana. It was here that my love of science and passion for educating finally combined in the form of paleontology and my future career was finally decided. I am now finishing my masters in geology at California State University, Fullerton with Dr. James Parham and am at my dream job as the collections manager and outreach coordinator at the Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology.

How did you become involved in paleontology education?

I have always loved being an educator and science communicator. My love for education and outreach stems from my love of storytelling. Paleontology has millions of years worth of stories and is a great way to educate people on science. I also know that for many, science and education is just simply unavailable or inaccessible. So my goals are now to help bring science education to people through my research and paleontology in general.