Catalina Pimiento Hernandez was born in Bogota, Colombia. Since she was very young she was passionate about sharks and marine life. She obtained her bachelor degree in biology in the Universidad Javeriana in Bogota. For her undergraduate thesis, Catalina moved to Mexico to study the population ecology of the whale sharks from the Isla Contoy National Park. She then moved to Panama where she worked in the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. Initially, Catalina worked in the Naos Marine Laboratory where she studied the migration patterns of whale sharks in Las Perlas Archipelago and the Central Pacific Ocean. Then she worked in the Center for Archeology and Paleoecology as a laboratory assistant.
In 2008 Catalina started her graduate studies at the University of Florida where she worked as a researcher-curator in the Florida Museum of Natural History. In the spring of 2010, Catalina obtained a Master of Science in Zoology from the Department of Biology with a minor in science education. For the scientific component of her master’s, Catalina studied the paleoecology of Miocene sharks from Panama. Her primary research focused on the nursery habitats of the extinct giant shark Carcharocles megalodon. For her education and outreach component, Catalina developed a website to engage children in science, and a curriculum activity to facilitate its use in classrooms and museums.
In 2010 Catalina started a non-traditional PhD in the Biology Department of the University of Florida. Her research component was field- and collections-based, and used macroecological studies and meta-analyses to investigate the fossil record of sharks. She was particularly interested in understanding the extinction mechanisms of C. megalodon, and combined her scientific research with science education, educational technology and public outreach. Accordingly, Catalina designed and implemented a blended course on Paleontology for undergraduate students from the University of Panama. In the summer of 2015, Catalina obtained a PhD in Biology from the Department of Biology with a minor in educational technology and curriculum development.
Recently, Catalina was awarded with the Forschungskredit postdoctoral fellowship from the University of Zurich and is currently working in the Paleontology Institute and Museum of the University of Zurich in Switzerland. For her research, she is investigating the effects of the extinction of ancient predators in ancient marine ecosystems. Catalina hopes to continue working with extinct predators and to use this information to interpret trophic cascades from a paleobiological perspective, and to provide insight for the conservation of modern sharks facing extinction. In addition, she plans to combine her scientific passion with her commitment to science education, educational technology and public outreach, and develop innovative tools to engage students, policy makes and the general audiences in science.
Panama Canal Project: Fossils and Global Change
When Smithsonian paleobotanist Carlos Jaramillo learned that Panama was expanding its canal in 2006 and blasting 100 million tons of rock to do so, he knew he had to move fast to access all of the fossils that this blasting could uncover. Carlos’ research from this site has led to a new understanding of how species spread across the Americas.