Jingmai O’Connor

She is currently working at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago as the Associate Curator of Fossil Reptiles. She received her PhD from the University of Southern California under Dr. David Bottjer, where she studied Mesozoic birds with Dr. Luis Chiappe at the LACM.

O’Connor’s research explores the evolution of flight in the Dinosauria, the dinosaur-bird transition, and the biology of stem-avians, not through any one aspect but exploring Paraves through feather origin and function, aerodynamics, reproduction, respiration, trophics, anatomy, systematics, ontogeny, taxonomy, histology, and other topics as exceptional specimens arise. Before moving to Chicago, O’Connor was a professor at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing where she worked for over ten years. O’Connor chose to work at the IVPP because Mesozoic deposits in northeastern China are the best source of paravian fossils and the IVPP, with over 80 professors of vertebrate paleontology and paleoanthropology under a single roof, it is arguably the greatest paleontological institute in the world. 

O’Connor is a very prolific researcher, already having published over 150 papers. This includes descriptions of 45+ new species and unusual fossilized soft tissues in Cretaceous birds including lungs and traces of the ovary. She has conducted field work in China, Mongolia, Romania, Canada, and South Africa and now maintains an active field program in the US. 

In 2019 O’Connor was awarded the Schuchert Award by the Paleontogical Society which honors a paleontologist under the age of 40 who demonstrates excellence and promise. O’Connor also does extensive outreach in the form of podcasts, public talks, and documentaries, and has recently written an award winning children’s book – When Dinosaurs Conquered the Skies (QuartoKids, 2022).