The 2017 Junior Technical Meeting (JTM) and the Puerto Rico Interdisciplinary Meeting (PRISM) will be held at the University of Puerto Rico, Humacao on April 29, 2017. JTM and PRISM are the Island’s largest annual scientific forum for undergraduate and graduate STEM students to present their research projects to peers and faculty members.
The invited plenary speaker is Jorge Vélez-Juarbe, PhD, Mammalogy Assistant Curator, holds a PhD from Howard University, where he studied the morphology, systematics, and paleobiology of fossil sirenians and cetaceans. After receiving his doctorate in 2012, Dr. Velez-Juarbe held Post-Doctoral Associate positions at the Florida Museum of Natural History, the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, and at California State University Fullerton. Now, Dr. Velez-Juarbe held a position as Mammalogy and Assistant Curator of Marine Mammals at the Los Angeles National History Museum. Dr. Velez-Juarbe's appointment involves curatorial responsibility for both out fossil and extant marine mammal collections.
Some of his current projects include: diversity and dynamics of ancient marine mammal herbivore communities, marine mammals from Central America and the Caribbean, Evolution of Cenozoic marine faunas of the Eastern Pacific region, Evolution and diversification of early odontocetes and mysticetes, and paleobiogeography of Cenozoic vertebrates from the Caribbean region.
Speech title and abstract:
Neotropical Sirenians and Sperm Whales: New Paleontological Discoveries from Puerto Rico and Panamá
The fossil record of sirenians (manatees and dugong) and cetaceans (whales and dolphins) goes back to about 50 million years ago. In both groups, the transition from land to sea was relatively fast, and once they adapted to marine habitats they had the potential to spread across the oceans. The majority of sirenian and cetacean fossils have been founds at higher latitudes in both hemispheres, usually coming from subtropical and temperate zones. This is mainly due to a variety of factors, such as higher numbers of researchers interested in these areas and better conditions for the preservation and discovery of fossils. However, this does not mean that there are no fossils in the tropics. In recent years, there has been an increase in research in the neotropics, as they offer a unique opportunity to further understand the evolutionary history of these marine mammals. In this presentation I will be showing the results of recent discoveries in Puerto Rico and Panama which have helped to rewrite the evolutionary history of sirenians, sperm whales and other cetaceans.
The PRISM provides vertical integration of the educational pipeline by bringing together secondary school students and teachers, undergraduate and graduate students from all STEM disciplines from all major institutions of higher education in Puerto Rico. Participants are encouraged to cross disciplinary lines by attending presentations and posters from other disciplines.